Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book review: Pain by Harry Shannon

Pain by Harry Shannon
Dark Regions press
121 pages

Harry Shannon is a talented writer, I have yet to read any of his novels yet, but I have always looked forward to his stories and and appearances in various magazines and anthologies. Pain is a novella, the first in a series of novellas published by Dark Regions press. It is a zombie tale that to me shares much in common with the Crazies(the Romero original more so than the excellent remake). It is the story of a small mountain town besiged by zombie like folks infected by a chemical weapon known as pain.

The book starts with a introduction by Bram Stoker award winning bestselling Author Jonathan Mayberry, I respect the man's work but frankly this intro was pretty worthless to me. The intro serves as a "Zombie genre for dummies," but honestly do we really need that? In my case it almost set the bar too high by reminding me what makes a great zombie movie/novel. More on that later.

Nine times out of ten horror writers who grew up reading Stephen King,Peter Straub and Clive Barker have the problem of over writing, as taught to those by those masters who sometimes could stand to be edited back. Here in Pain, I experienced the opposite. My biggest complaint with this novella was that I felt like we were just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this story. That is good sometimes, we don't want the whole mystery revealed all the time, but I felt rushed through this story and the characters.

It is obvious that this book began life as a screenplay, if you have ever read a screenplay they are like skeletons and they are covered in blood, guts and clothes by an entire production team and director. In this case Pain feels like a skeleton with a very cool looking robe on it. You cane still see bare bones, which is too bad but because the seeds are there.

Lots cool moments of suspense, obviously cool story telling, but in the end I felt like alot was missing. Remember when I talked about the intro. Mayberry pointed out that the best zombie movies/novels are not about zombies. We got a hint that Shannon was trying to make a statement about the military contractors but again I think there was more material just beyond the surface. I almost never say this but Pain is neat little zombie book that could have been even better with another 50 to 100 pages of depth...

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