Thursday, October 18, 2012

Re-Kindling Interest: Horrorween by Al Sarrantonio (Halloween horror, Orangefield series)

This is one of a series of reviews focusing on out-of-print works that have become available again via a variety of e-book formats.

Orangefield is a strange little town. As Detective Bill Grant said in The Baby, a lot of "weird shit" happens around Halloween, in one way or another involving the participation of Samhain, the lord of the dead. A children's-horror author, a five-year-old boy, an older girl named Wizard, a Halloween historian, and a pumpkin tender are all connected by visits from Samhain. Horrorween chronicles a series of events that comes to a head on Halloween, when people will die, others will redeem themselves, and Samhain with either succeed or fail.

Horrorween is primarily composed of three early Orangefield stories -- the short story "Hornets," the novella The Pumpkin Boy, and the short novel Orangefield -- tied together with narrative glue to form a novel that is a surprisingly cohesive read.

Sarrantonio combines the horror and innocence of Halloween in a way no one has since Ray Bradbury. Horrorween, unlike the vast majority of modern horror novels, is subtle, not beating the reader senseless with shock after shock but developing a sustained level of tension. When Sarrantonio delivers the final blow, it's almost a relief.

And his horrors are truly shocking events that anyone can relate to -- not based on what Stephen King called "the gross-out." Don't get me wrong: some of my favorite horror authors are gross-out artists, but it's refreshing to encounter horror of the old school that seeks to truly terrify, yet is otherwise basically PG-rated.

Though Sarrantonio has a very accessible style, his storylines manage to be unpredictable and not easily summarized because to describe the action would either be unhelpfully vague or would give something away. And that would be a shame because Horrorween offers such a terrific ride for lovers of Halloween and light horror fiction.

For more Halloween recommendations, check out my 2009 Halloween feature.

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