enter night book coverHorror/Sci-Fi Fantasy Fiction

Enter Night

Michael Rowe (2011)

Finalist for the Prix Aurora and the Sunburst Award

3.67 rating out of 5 on Goodreads.

This review contains spoilers.

A darkness gathers in the hills surrounding Parr’s Landing and draws to it several players, including: Richard Weal, a fledgling vampire searching for his master, Dr. Billy Lightning, a Native American professor whose adopted father may have inadvertently unleashed the darkness, and Christina Parr and Jeremy Parr, two former residents of the remote mining town who had been driven away by the town’s matriarch who still casts a long shadow over the remote mining town. With them is Christina’s daughter, Morgan Parr.

This is the premise of the freshman novel by journalist Michael Rowe. It is a setup that peaks some interest and asks several questions that beg answering. What is the evil, though we are aware from the first scene that it is a master vampire. Are forces drawing these players back to the town for some reason? What is that reason? What does the town’s matriarch have to do with the evil haunting the wilderness surrounding the town and in and of the town itself?

From the very first moment of the book, it seems that Rowe is not going to play around with the traditional slow build and dread of some sects of horror fiction. A vampire is in the first sentence. Then we meet one of his first victims. This character has an interesting backstory, but I was immediately put off by what turns out to be a gratuitous sex scene with a very pregnant girl that I would find unbelievable in a late night Cinemax movie. This character winds up on the bus that the vampire is taking back to Parr's Landing. He is killed along with everyone else on the bus introducing a storytelling device wherein the dead are released from their bodies and have knowledge of the past and the future. These murders might have been interesting if they meant anything further into the story, but they don't. The small three man police force in Parr's Landing later ignore the evidence that something dangerous is on its way. The device of the soul leaving the body could have also been interesting, but it seems it was only there as a way to tell you rather than show you what happens to the surviving characters at the end.

And the novel continues in this fashion. Predictable and uneventful in its conjurings while slowly trying to build some kind of tension. My early hopes of the novel just jumping right into the fray were dashed. The character backstories might have been interesting if they somehow played a part in the precedings, but they don't. None of it matters. None of my questions were answered. No other questions were asked. Was the point of the novel small town futility? I'd argue that the heart of any small town along with it's dark pasts and prejudices make up the true story of a small town. That's what Salem's Lot by Stephen King understood. I only bring it up because this book has been compared, and sometimes favorably, with that classic horror novel.

For me there was far too little mystery to develop any tension. We already know there is a vampire in the hills, so putting it off for over a hundred pages is ineffective. There is some foreplay with Wendigo legends, which may have been interesting if they were delved into instead of merely mentioned. Yes we know, "oh dear, the Wendigo is probably the vampire!" And when the kid tries to tell his parents that his dog has become a vampire, I just don't care that they don't believe him. I wish this novel had been humorous. There might have been something there.

The setup had promise, but it devolves quickly. The police force is naturally comprised of racist hicks, and it might be true that they exist, but I would have been more interested if they tried to put up a fight. I could tell that the author didn't care much for these people, so I cared less. Every character being attracted to each other, but trying not to show it is the worst kind of tripe in my opinion. And to be honest, though I was trying not to let it show, as these reviews were all about being positive, every sentence I read filled me with revulsion after maybe page 50. It took me a long time to read this book because I just didn't want to. I should have put it down.

I also had issues with the depiction of the gay men. The gay characters had a disastrous fling in high school years past, which drove one away from the town and nearly ruined the other’s life. The set-up was done well, and I had been anticipating the eventual reunion, but it fell flat. After twenty years, their thoughts turned to sex on their first meeting? And the one left behind could barely control himself with his lust? I found that to be almost ignorant about human behavior in general. That’s just me. I had the same issue with the high school freshman, Morgan, falling for the “charms” of Finn, a kid two years her junior, just because he was nice to her in her first week. (It might have been her first day.) I did believe the boy would fall in love, just not the other way around. That she would profess her love for him and have sex with the kid after he becomes a vampire… well.

The slow reveal of the past through the character of Dr. Lightning, who of course falls for the widowed Christina, who also in turn falls for him, makes me wonder why the Richard Weal character couldn’t have simply freed the vampire decades ago. I think it would have worked better if something in the reveal was going to help them out of the trouble they’re heading into. It doesn’t.

In the end, everyone but the mother and daughter dies. It is unclear what happens next, but the story ends when they make it out of town. This may have been the author’s intent, that the story told is that of Christina and her daugher. If so, I think it would have been more interesting if the novel took a more narrow approach, not revealing anything to the reader except Christina, Morgan, and Jeremy suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a shit storm. If it was told in that manner, I think it would have been more effective. And then their escape would have been a fine place to end. And just for a little bonus, maybe throw in that they somehow managed to escape with a bunch of the mother- in- law’s money, so that they would be okay afterwards.

The novel ends with a long flashback in the form of a letter from a Jesuit priest. It reveals how the vampire came to be buried in the hills, and touches on a failed settlement that was mentioned in the bulk of the novel, but it fails to tie anything together or bring out anything revealing about the main characters or the story in general.

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I like the idea of this novel, but I feel it felt short of it’s promise. I would have liked to see perhaps some dark secret of the town that involved the vampire. Maybe somehow his influence was behind the problems there. I would have liked to see a purpose to the characters being drawn back to the town, instead of just the coincidence that it was.

The tacked on ending should have been woven through. Every time a character died with the plot device introduced in the beginning could have been used as a device to flesh out the back story.

The matriarch of the town could have somehow been infested with the vampire's far reaching power. And/or the town itself could have been.

The first character who dies was more interesting than anyone who followed.

Richard Weal could have been struggling with his humanity. Again, if he had some resistance toward his goal, it might have been more interesting.

Vampires being taken back to their roots, is fine, but I really would have liked to have more story.

March, 2016

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