Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Torment by Greg Chapman

Greg Chapman is one of those breed to have made good use of services provided to emerging Australian horror writers. After joining the local association in 2009 he was selected very quickly into the mentoring program under the auspices of author Brett McBean. (Anyone familiar with my reviews lately will know this to be quite a coup). What is apparent to blossom out of such a relationship is Greg’s obvious love and genuine fondness for the genre - the act of writing and finding an audience for his work is not something recently acquired or new. And this is a good thing. Something the publishers also saw on display.   

One thing that I feel is important to mention here: reading Torment was one of my first experiences with the device known as the Kindle. After a life time of musing on cover illustrations and dipping my nose into paper pages for that unique aroma, these quirks were no longer available to me. But this is not the place for an active discussion on the disparity between the two. Merely that I was initially apprehensive about a potentially great book by an Australian being let down by a new medium and a follow up review that would be much impoverished. Thankfully this is not the case: the device was more than adequate to the task and there was nothing about Torment I felt lacking.

Torment as a novella is a tried and true formula: after a childhood incident sees her mother perish at the hands of clergyman father Douglass during a ritual exorcism, Jessica McKinnon returns home to rural Scotland years later as an adult with husband David and son Alex in tow to exorcise some demons of her own – namely, to find out the reason her father killed himself and subsequently bequeathed the house to her. But ‘tried and true’ is a recipe that works – and we’ve seen those writers at the top (a good model would be John Saul) try it dozens of times: After being witness to an act of horrific debauchery as a child, our protagonist returns to the house on haunted hill to confront ghosts of the past. Readers will have something to identify with, and for a debut author who is genuine unknown, this is a definite hook.

There are problems associated with it, but nearly all of these run the gamut of what the plot means to this reviewer on a personal level. The age of ‘biblical baddies’ (as I’ve previously referred to them), traversing the earth and wreaking havoc now seem as irrelevant to horror fiction as they do in real life. At times the syntax can be somewhat plain (but not unexpected in a debut), and having characters exclaim dialogue instead of simply stating ‘said’ is another pet-peeve that can push a reader rudely out of their chair. But don’t let any of these things steer you away or deter you (there are no doubt more than enough avid fans of The Exorcist and tales of possession still haunting the bookstores) - and simply enjoy it for what it is: as a more than entertaining yarn from an Australian author with grand potential and many more tales to come.

Both print and digital copies can be ordered from Damnation Books. 

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