Sunday, February 13, 2011

Far Dark Fields

By Gary A. Braunbeck
Publsihed by Leisure Books

The latest book in Braunbeck’s Cedar Hill series, FAR DARK FIELDS will be devoured by fans, but it may leave new readers confused and cold. As I am somewhere in the middle, I should be the ideal person to review this, right? I mean, I have read two of Braunbeck’s previous novels set in that haunted Ohio town, but have missed two, so while some names and events were familiar to me, a good portion were not. While Mr. Braunbeck does provide some explanation of past events, enough is left for the fans of Cedar Hill to fill in the blanks that novices to that creepy Midwest town might be left scratching their heads. Ok, that bit of proviso out of the way, let’s get to the juicy bits.

Geoff Conover, a high school English teacher is our protagonist in this tale. A student at his school goes on a killing spree and heads towards his old home town of Cedar Hill. The kid is wounded, dying, but using his last breath he asks to speak to Geoff. The teacher, a survivor of a mass murder himself, reluctantly goes to speak with the kid. What follows is a mystery involving the local bogeyman with the great name of Hoopsticks and the reason he was spared so many years before. That mystery unfolds through a series of flashbacks, and then some flashbacks, and then a few more flashbacks. Remember when I said people new to Cedar Hills may feel a bit lost? Well this is where that will happen.

There are enough good fright moments here to satisfy most horror junkies even if they’re new to Braunbeck’s haunted world. One particular good part had Geoff descending into the very bowls of Cedar Hill in his hunt for the truth. Fan or not, that was great stuff. Furthermore Braunbeck’s trademark warm and easy to read style is in full effect and the man can spin a heck of a yarn. That said, not everything is perfect with this book. The explanation for Hoopsticks leaves a little something to be desired and leaves a lot of things unexplained. I can only assume that was done so that in a future book such questions could be wrapped up. In a similar fashion, the end of this the novel was also a bit so-so and pretty blatantly sets things up for a sequel. Now I don’t mind sequels, but I do like the stories before them to have their own clear and satisfying endings. I can’t honestly say that FAR DARK FIELDS has that.

Cedar Hill fans should get this book as it continues to expand the mythology of that town nicely. Those new to Gary A. Braunbeck should probably pick up some of his earlier titles, not only to see if his style meshes with their tastes (always a good idea), but to become familiar with the thick backstory needed to enjoy this book to the fullest. So depending upon who you are, buy accordingly.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons


Rabid Fox said...

Very good review. I read Coffin County 'round the end of '09, and while I did like it, it was my first time reading Braubeck's work and it felt like there was an undercurrent I was missing out on. Still, the guy spins a good yarn and I'm looking forward to reading more stuff set in Cedar Hill.

Anton Cancre said...

If it helps any, I believe that this particular story is a half of a whole. As far as I understand it, it should be continued in his next novel, which I think will be coming out through Apex.

Personally, i would have been less angry when I finished if it has been stated to be one of a two parter. Sure, it is part of the CH series, but each of the past ones has stood as a discrete tale. Growling done.

Good book, still/