Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review : Neverland by Douglas Clegg

Neverland by Douglas Clegg

There is a fine tradition in the classic horror novel to tell the coming of age story. Stories like Robert McCammon's Boy's life or Stephen King's The Body are period pieces clearly inspired by the authors childhood and the era they grew up in. The late 50's or 60's coming of age horror novel is almost a sub-genre itself. We are just seeing my generation of horror writer start to do this with a the 80's, a great example is James Newman's Midnight Rain. Neverland is soon to be a classic that stands up quite strongly next to the classic works in this sub-genre. A coming of age horror novel so rooted in the 60's it's like holding a 288 page time machine in your hands.
The strongest element at play in these novels is the almost magical reverence paid to being a child in those times. I have a hard time imagining the youth of today writing poetic novels about this age where they play video games, talk by text message and hang out online. Neverland is a story that exists because the children who make up the character's greatest entertainment is not a computer or a phone but their imagination.
This leads the cousins Beau and Summter who have gathered at their grandmother's island home off the coast of Georgia each summer to create 'Neverland.' An odd shed mysteriously placed in the middle of the woods becomes their clubhouse. The narrator's cousin Sumter has created a childish fantasy that this shed is like a beacon to communicate with a god he calls Lucy. According to Summter they must worship and sacrifice animals to Lucy, the novel really starts to take off when our narrator begins to hear the voice of Lucy himself.
Is Lucy an angel? A devil? Or is Lucy something different? Clegg does an amazing job of building and maintaining family drama while the mystery and terror surrounding Lucy's identity grows. As you can imagine the price of the sacrifices continue to get higher as the short and effective novel builds to the exciting conclusion.
Douglas Clegg who is a long time veteran of horror and dark fantasy has great reason to be proud of this novel. There is no doubt it is one of his best and most solid novels. Considering the power of several of his past novels that is no small praise. This is Stoker quality horror. But that is not all, the book looks amazing. Vanguard Press did an amazing job of designing a beautifully packaged trade paperback, which old school looking rough paper and amazing illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne who recently made waves adapting Stephen King Short stories in the Secretary of Dreams black and white comics.

Neverland is a horror novel that reads will eat up, and fellow writers will read green with envy. This is how it is done.

Note: After I finished this review, I went to find a picture of the cover and found the image at the bottom. An old old tattered copy of the Neverland. since I had believed it was brand spanking new novel this shocked me. As an avid horror/ Clegg reader somehow i had missed this novel. and never once noticed the copyright in the front that said 1991/2009. I decided to leave my review as is.Thank Vanguard press for putting this back in print.


James said...

Thanks for the mention, man! That's very cool . . . .

I actually own that "tattered old edition" at the bottom. NEVERLAND's been one of my favorite novels for a long time (although I like Mr. Clegg's THE CHILDREN'S HOUR even more). I need to pick up the new edition.


David Agranoff said...

Loved midnight rain!