Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: The Burning by Bentley Little

Like many writers of Horror Fiction in the world today, Bentley Little has crafted his own style over the years and now has it down to kind of science. His books invariably follow a formula, but it is a well – practiced formula and no doubt keeps readers coming back again and again ensuring a dedicated readership and often imitated writing method.

The dedication in The Burning is interesting, and gives a fascinating insight into the roots of stories and how they can manifest and evolve. In this case, Bentley dedicates it to his son, who asked for a story that included a haunted train and two graves marked Mother and Daughter side by side together. Taper this with his formula and Bentley Little delivers a simple, elegant Horror novel that has no pretensions about its grassroots influence.
As with his previous novels, the author is heavily influenced by a Chinese mythological connection. In The Burning we have Angela Ramos, an Hispanic University student who has just moved away from home into a share house with a ghost. There’s Henry Cote, a Native American descendant Park Ranger who lives in the National Park and is plagued by perverse erotic dreams of Chinese twins who haunt the Canyonlands. Recently divorced Joylene has moved to Bear Flats with her son Skylar to start a new life living with her mother … and it will be them that come across the eerie graves of a Mother and Daughter. So too will they witness the gaunt, leprous face that peers in a Skylar during the night, grinning malevolently. And finally a Chinese American, criss-crossing the country on a journey of self discovery, being called toward something he only partially understands – toward ancient ancestors seeking redemption for past transgressions.

At the centre of this group, and slowly peeled away through their strange encounters, an eternal hellish Train raised from the bowels of history carrying the departed souls of different races seeking reprisal. Those that have been wronged by Caucasian man since the Civil War and beyond.

At its heart, The Burning is primarily a revenge novel, seen through the eyes of very disparate characters trying to connect the dots before the inevitable showdown as the train finally pulls into its metaphorical station. What I liked about this novel – as apposed to Bentley’s previous forays – was the more worldly aspect to it. Too often, Bentley concentrates on the small town mythos, and although this is a perfectly honorable way to tell the tale, it was utterly gratifying to see things like the White House being laid waste to eternal powers. Moreover our trips back in time to witness the decrepitude and heinous acts committed by those before the turn of the last century. And it does this without being too preachy or trying to shove a message down your throat.

There is another Horror review site that likes to give stars based on the smell of a book. A little eccentric, but one eccentricity I think we all can relate to. I give The Burning 5 out of 5 in relation to this; it’s the perfect little horror book to take on your next flight interstate … or Train ride, perhaps.

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