Edition 2: Book Review: That Which Should Not Be by Brett J Talley
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
You know those times when you could swear you saw something out of the corner of your eye? Winner of the 2011 JournalStone Horror Writing Contest, this intriguing novel takes that phenomenon and spins it into a creepy web of a tale.
Carter Weston, a young student at Miskatonic University (the fictional institution made famous by HP Lovecraft) is tasked with finding an ancient book, one that is rumored to have the power to bring forth dormant supernatural beings. A skeptic at heart, but hungry for knowledge, Carter readily accepts this mission.
He arrives at his destination, a tiny seaside village, and shelters from a blizzard in the local tavern. There, he meets four men who share some wild stories, but their recollections prove to be invaluable to Carter’s search.
From the first page to the very last, the author paints an atmosphere of foreboding and dread. It’s no wonder this book was also nominated for a 2011 HWA Bram Stoker Award in the First Novel category. Set in the post-Victorian era of Lovecraftian fame, it had that Stoker-like brooding, fog-covered feel of classic Gothic horror all wrapped up in a freshly written tale.
The first three-quarters of the book are written in a journal style, switching from Carter’s recollections of his mission, to the four individual tales of the men he encounters and Carter’s reactions to those stories. Those four tales were each strong stories in their own right. They were set in very different locations and circumstances. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one about Danvers Asylum. Yet, they all had something in common that set Carter and the others on the final leg of the book’s journey—to stop that “thing which should not be” from waking up and destroying the world.
In the midst of this unlikely subject matter, the author expertly weaves in Biblical history, Native American folklore, and other real-life tidbits that grounded the plot enough to make it believable. The language is heavy, as any true Gothic horror would be, yet not so florid that it was inaccessible.
Though this book ranked moderately high on the creep-scale for me, I never really felt true fear. Instead, much of the narrative told me to be afraid as it went along instead of letting the suspense emerge organically. It may have been the method of storytelling that took away the impact. Had the characters related the story as it happened instead of telling it after the fact, it may have been easier to make an emotional connection.
I must admit, as a reader, I’ve been spoiled by the ultra-visual, Hollywood immediacy of modern-day authors. However, I hold a great respect for the classic, literary styles of Lovecraft, Stoker, and now, Brett J. Talley, and I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of gothic horror.
That Which Should Not Be, by Brett J Talley
Publisher: JournalStone, 2011
ISBN: 1936564149 (9781936564149)
Mysti Parker is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. She is also the proud writer of Unwritten, a blog recently voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award.