Just last week I wrote all about my plans for the future and how I was sticking to my guns and blogging two times a week for sure. The first deadline came and went and I didn't even notice until last night when I realized I hadn't written my review as promised. Well, I'll be damned if I don't follow through and post it even if it's a day later. So, to my patient and adoring fans (I have a lot of family, what can I say?) and to you my lovely friends, here it is. My review of A Satan Carol By Alan S. Kessler.
This book was given to me by Robert Leyland, the great mind behind Dark River Press and its awesome magazine where I'm a proud staff reviewer. At first sight and after reading the synopsis, I wasn’t so sure this would be a nice fit for me, nor a proper horror book. Boy, was I wrong. Let’s start by saying that A Satan Carol is a very original story and Alan Kessler may very well be the next big thing. I loved this book with its twisted characters and offbeat pace. It’s been a while since a book has kept me guessing until the very end. But it’s not only the story that’s original, the way in which the author tells it added much to my sense of not really knowing what was happening, that I needed to get my bearings somehow. Delightful indeed.
The book starts in 1848 Ireland and tells the story of a mother desperate to find food to save her very special son from the famine sweeping the whole country, except for the rich landowners and the British aristocracy. The tone is very bleak and though there is no monster hiding in the dark, I felt the impending doom, fear, and desperation. The story then jumps a hundred and forty years into the future to a series of characters with highly varied backgrounds. Kessler keeps jumping from one time to another, from character to character without revealing too much about their connection or where he’s going. He relies on his mesmerizing narrative to keep pulling the reader further into the actions of what seems like a bunch of crazy, dysfunctional people.
The pace is slow but always interesting, very dark and atmospheric; so much so, that after a few pages, a truly disturbing feeling got under my skin and stayed there. As the book advances, the pace picks up and the tone becomes lighter; as if the more the reader understands, the more we can peek under Kessler's dark veil. Then the story turns even stranger and the characters more twisted. More than a few times I found myself flinching away from the pages or closing my eyes and rubbing my forehead in a fruitless attempt to erase from my mind the horrible image Kessler invoked.
A Satan Carol is a piece with so many qualities that it's a must for anyone craving an intelligent story that will make them think, cringe, and sweat. It is very well thought through, extremely original with a great mix of religious ideas and horror traits. And let’s not forget the powerful narrative that never releases you from its grip. Remember The Devil’s Advocate? Well, if you enjoyed that movie –and who didn’t?-- this book is right up your alley.
I have a couple of minor complains, though. First, there were a few problems with punctuation. Usually, of all possible editorial mistakes, punctuation would be the thing that bothered me the least, but because the author chooses to be so cryptic, and his style is very dark and hardly traditional, these small mistakes can make for a very confusing paragraph. My second complaint? The book’s ending. Now, is there ever a truly satisfying ending? I don’t know. We all think we can do better than what was done, so it is all very subjective. In my humble opinion, the book is three chapters too long. Right at the end of chapter eighteen there’s resolution for each of the issues raised throughout the story. The need to go on, I think, is merely that need deep inside every author to be the one who dictates the fate of each of his characters. The thing is, sometimes the openness of an ending suits a story better.
Now, with that out of the way, I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this book and how much I recommend you to read it. You’re really missing out if you don't read this book.
For purchase information, click on this link. Don't forget to leave a comment for me in the blog or at my Author Facebook page, I always love to hear from you. Now, if you're intrigued enough about the book or if you simply want to hang out and share your thoughts with us, I'm planning to run a discussion group on Dark River Press Facebook page next week, so get ready! More details soon to come!