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Written before his recently published (1976) and highly eccentric Westerns (Dead in the West, Magic Wagon), Lansdale's hard-driving, ultraviolent, and utterly formulaic horror novel is most reminiscent of the early whiplash-fast novels of top terror-maven Dean Koontz--so it's no surprise that Koontz himself ushers in this tale of demonic juvenile delinquency with a warm and generous introduction. Once past Koontz's kindly gush, it's clear that, for Lansdale, plot is king: his protagonists--young marrieds Monty and Becky Jones--exist only as pawns to be buffeted about in the evil winds conjured up by Lansdale via the agency of ""the Goblins""--a villainous band of crazed teen-agers. The Joneses first appear as they're driving to an isolated cabin in east Texas. There, despite Becky's premonitions of disaster and despite the pursuit (unknown to them) of the Goblins, who are on a horrific killing spree as they race after the couple, the Joneses hope to heal the wounds to Becky's psyche and to their marriage caused by her recent rape: seems that Becky, a schoolteacher, was raped by student and chief Goblin Clyde Edson, who then hung himself in his jail cell. As shown by a long and grisly flashback, Clyde's hobbies were drugs, rape, murder, and a devil worship wrapped in pseudo-Nietzschean hooey and seductive enough to entice a few other teen-agers into his camp, most notably Brian Blackwood. Brian leads the gang after Clyde's suicide, and is soon possessed by Clyde's raging spirit--hence the vengeance chase after the Joneses. With a deft hand, Lansdale keeps things pumping until the final predictable triumph of good over evil--with Monty along the way changing facilely from milquetoast to macho man via a baptism of blood. All sizzle and no steak makes for a very light meal indeed. Lansdale has talent, no doubt--but it's wasted on this gory, superficial, hack stuff.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Dark Harvest (P.O. Box 941, Arlington Heights, IL 60006)