No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014/40: Seed -- Ania Ahlborn

At what point do parents back away from something they love more than their own lives, put up their hands, and admit defeat? [loc. 906]

Jack Winter lives in a Louisiana backwater with his wife Aimee and his daughters, Abigail and Charlotte. They’re poor but happy. Aimee’s mother thinks Jack’s a lazy good-for-nothing, playing in a band and working as a mechanic. But Jack knows -- though he'll never tell Aimee -- that he’s escaped a great evil: the thing that he encountered (summoned?) in the old cemetery behind his childhood home, the thing that’s tattooed on his back as a reminder. He reckons he deserves some peace.

Turns out Jack doesn’t remember everything that happened to him, even when he sees two glowing eyes on the road one night: even when his younger daughter, Charlie, undergoes an unnerving change of personality.

Seed is, in places, truly scary: there’s a sense of looming, growing menace that builds gradually to a horrific climax. But I found it an unsatisfactory and depressing experience, and I think that’s because of the utter helplessness of the Winter family: the sense that there’s no point in the novel at which they could change the outcome, escape what’s coming for them. It’s written in blood, carved in stone, generation after generation, and there’s no fixing it.

Which got me thinking about the horror novels that I like, and why I like them. Yes, I like there to be some possibility, at least, of a happy ending for one or more characters; I like some explanation of what and why and how; I like characters who have strength or charisma. Poor Jack’s a-broken, and though he does the best he can, he’s damned before the story starts.

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