Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

That Which Should Not be by Brett J. Talley
259 pages
Journal Stone

There must be something wrong with me because I really did not like this book. Apparently a lot of other people disagree with me. so keep this in mind when you read my review. This book has forty-eight almost perfect reviews on and over two dozen on amazon. I hate to say this because I love to support new authors and certainly I can imagine the hard work Talley put into this book. I have to be honest...I really didn't like this book. Worse I struggled, I mean struggled to follow it or get to the last pages.

It is the story set at Lovecraft's fictional university Misatonic and is told by four revolving characters. So one of the main characters is Carter Weston, he is asked to search a nearby village for a book called the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, (The Inferno of the Witch). Along the journey he is exposed to several myths and legends that relate to the book.

I should point out that I am not ethically opposed to the use of Lovecraft's mythos by modern authors, and I also have read and enjoyed plenty of period horror by Lovecraft, Smith and Blackwood. So it's not that I don't get it. Talley has been praised for perfectly grasping and using the period voice and and writing in that style. That is the root of the problem for me, and I admit when it's a first time author it will cause my eyes to roll more than ever. People complain about vampires and werewolves becoming derivative and they are, but come on it's the 21st century and writing like you are Howard Phillips Lovecraft at his typewriter and using his characters to me is every bit if not more derivative.

The best mythos stories I have read in the last few years comes from authors like Cody Goodfellow and Michael Shea who explore the themes and ideas of Lovecraft in their own unique voice. Not to say that writing in Lovecraft's voice never works - I enjoyed Edward Lee's mythos novel "The Innswich Horror" and he was clearly doing the same thing as this novel. Talley a talented guy Probably even captured the period voice more effectively than the long time pro Ed Lee, the difference is when Ed Lee doesn't I know he can write a novel without cloning the voice of a long dead master.

Doesn't matter in the end I just didn't think it was a well done narrative. The novel really is a series of stories that breaks one of the writers most often repeated mantras "show, don't tell." Well this novel is all told, and a first person narrative told by several different people telling stories with in stories gets confusing to me. A great first person narrative is told in a voice so strong it can carry you through the whole thing. I was constantly lost on who was telling the story at any given time.

For me this experiment might have worked better in third-person. If you didn't want to lose the story telling aspect of the piece, it could have still been done in dialogue.

Maybe I'm totally wrong about this book, others seem to like it. for that reason it should be considered for library collections. If you can't get enough of stories from that period, then this is the book for you. If your ready to see the mythos evolve into the 21st century this is not the book to do it. Talley is talented and did enough in this book if he ever releases a book written in his own voice I will pick it up.

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