Saturday, July 10, 2010

Occasional Demons, (Cemetery Dance), by Rick Hautala

From the fertile mind of one of horror's most prolific writers comes a wide array of diverse, fun tales. From haunted Maine lighthouses to vaguely Lovecraftian beings living in woodland lakes to dystopian visions of the future, Hautala consistently entertains. In an often folksy narrative he spins tales worthy of countless re-tellings around the campfire. Among the most memorable are:

“The Nephews”, in which a writer too curious for his own good vanishes while investigating an abandoned lighthouse, leaving behind nothing but cassette tapes playing eerie dead-air; “Non-returnable”, about a damned book with a taste for blood – and lives; “Dead Legends”, a cautionary tale about the dangers in pursuing fame at any price; “I've Been Thinking About You”, about that first love who holds on...forever; “Toxic Shock”, a dystopian future where 'Right to Life' takes on new meaning; “The Call”, a lightly Lovecraftian story about an ancient darkness that claims the rights to a father's heritage; “Every Mother's Son”, about a hen-pecked, timid man haunted by ghosts that won't go away, even as the world falls apart around him and finally “The Compost Heap”, a tale of biodegradable murder and proof that love and devotion can survive almost anything...even decomposition.

Perhaps the most satisfying section of “Demons” is Hautala's myth-telling of “Unticigahunk – Stories and Myths of the Little Brothers”. Many authors have utilized myths to tell contemporary stories of fantasy and horror, and Hautala is at his sharpest with these. Beginning with a Micmac Indian creation myth of how the “Old One” was tricked into creating an inferior version of humanity and then how a jealous Brother Wolf tricked this creation into believing its role was to feed on all the Old One's creations, Hautala weaves several loosely connected stories detailing the movement of this creature through modern times.

“Chrysalis” begins with the discovery of a strange, leathery egg at a construction site which births something hungry; “Love on the Rocks” features an escaped convict and two archeologists who encounter something older than time itself, something that has spawned. Next is “To Deal with Devils”, in which an awful pact has been made to protect livestock, followed by “The Birch Whistle”, where a couple grieving over their recent miscarriage discover something that will end their woes – permanently. Ending this cycle is “Oilman”, about a little girl who makes a last stand against the things that killed her daddy.

In many ways, a review doesn't do justice to the breadth and width of the stories contained in this collection. Whatever your tastes, Hautala satisfies – and surprises – with each turn of the page.

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