Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review:The Hitchhiking Effect by Gene O’Neill

The Hitchhiking Effect by Gene O’Neill

Dark Renaissance Books, 2015

Trade paperback, 274 pp., $19.95

(No cover image yet)

Gene O’Neil is one of my favorite under rated horror writers. I know it is weird to call a writer with blurbs from Kim Stanley Robinson, Scott Edelman and publisher’s weekly unsung but I think as good as he is it is a shame he is not a household name. Serious horror as literature fans know his name and work. I have reviewed him three times before including a fantastic collection of stories set in the San Francisco neighborhood the Tenderloin. The Taste of Tenderloin is a fantastic read that gives a great taste of what O’Neil can do while painting a vivid picture of the infamous section of the city.

The Hitchhiking Effect is an even better example of O’Neil’s work not just because it spans his thirty year career but because it is fantastic top to bottom. The emotional depth of this book highlights the O’Neil trademark. Stories that make you feel things. You will feel the emotional depth of these stories long after you close the book. The theme if there is a connective tissue seems to be the insanity and impact of war on the people forced into them.

The book opens with a wonderful forward by the author that explains the title. I found this a fantastic and inspiring look at how O’Neil learned in his early days the craft of writing from meeting peers and in one case making eight hours drives with one. Really neat.

The first story “The Burden of Indigo” was O’Neil first major sale to Twilight Zone Magazine in the 80’s. This is a vivid and moving tale of a post apocalyptic world where criminals are dyed colors so everyone knows what they did. Wisely the author expanded that story into a novel that I believe is finally coming out soon. That story was a favorite of mine along with The Hungry Skull (fantastic tale of loss) and the short but epic feeling closer ‘Firebug’ that was written to tie up this collection and it certainly did. Firebug follows a fire investigator as he enters the mind of arsonist he is trying to catch.

It also doesn’t hurt that the book comes with 11 fantastic pieces of art based on the stories by Steven Gilberts who is a artist apparently from my home state of Indiana. This book is worth the twenty dollars for the stories alone but the art is amazing. If you like lyrical, emotionally rich horror fiction that leans heavy on the literature side of the genre then you simply can’t go wrong with Hitchhiking Effect. This book should be in your collection and giving a prime spot in the new releases because O’Neil deserves new readers.

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