Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Week: The Baby by Al Sarrantonio (Orangefield horror novella)

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Down in the Cellar. Copyright 2006. Reprinted with permission.

From the jack-o'-lantern on the cover, it's easy to tell that this novella from author Al Sarrantonio was one of the Halloween-related offerings for 2006 from Cemetery Dance Publications. Whereas most pumpkin-heads at least attempt to be frightening, however, the one on the cover of The Baby (as drawn by Keith Minnion) is positively adorable, which nicely reinforces the title.

The Baby is part of Al Sarrantonio's Orangefield series that includes the novels Hallows' Eve, Horrorween, and other stories with similarly holiday-oriented titles. It is also the third in the Signature Series of books from Cemetery Dance. These focus on giving somewhat less story but considerably more art for a comparable price to their usual books.

Detective Bill Grant wishes that "weird shit" wouldn't happen in Orangefield every Halloween, but the town's resident Celtic Lord of the Dead, Samhain, is going to make sure his wish isn't about to come true. After spending a night out with the boys, Jack Carlin comes home a little after one o'clock in the morning to fulfill his promise to his wife Marianne: to try and make a baby. She's a little miffed that she’s had to wait, but they make love and she quickly falls asleep afterward, only to wake up an hour later to find Jack gone again.

Detective Grant has to inform her that Jack actually died outside the bar ... a little before one in the morning. But the fact remains that she is now pregnant. How this happened and what exactly happened to Jack are up for debate. What is not, is that Samhain has plans for this baby ("life created from death"), and he is not above cashing in a couple of favors to do it. But favors for Samhain have a way of making people dead.

The Baby is a thin, narrow volume of 129 pages, with two dozen beautifully rendered realistic and evocative illustrations from artist Keith Minnion. The story reads very quickly, however, and followers of Sarrantonio may feel that the extra money was not well spent. (Minnion fans like myself will likely be more pleased with the quality and value.) Nevertheless, the book itself is beautiful, stands out on the shelf, and the story is engaging and tautly written enough to justify revisiting it every Halloween.

Since this review was first written, The Baby has been expanded by Sarrantonio into the novel-length Halloweenland. This novel is a different take on the story, and reprinters Leisure Books have included the text of The Baby (sans Minnion's art) as a bonus in the paperback. Both versions are just as entertaining, and Sarrantonio's alternate take on the story — especially the ending of the novella — is definitely worth a look.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails