Thursday, August 11, 2011

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

That Which Should Not Be

Good Reads Summary

Winner of the 2011 JS horror writing contest!

Miskatonic University has a long-whispered reputation of being strongly connected to all things occult and supernatural. From the faculty to the students, the fascination with other-worldly legends and objects runs rampant. So, when Carter Weston’s professor Dr. Thayerson asks him to search a nearby village for a book that is believed to control the inhuman forces that rule the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, The Inferno of the Witch, the student doesn’t hesitate to begin the quest.

Weston’s journey takes an unexpected turn, however, when he ventures into a tavern in the small town of Anchorhead. Rather than passing the evening as a solitary patron, Weston joins four men who regale him with stories of their personal experiences with forces both preternatural and damned. Two stories hit close to home as they tie the tellers directly to Weston’s current mission.

His unanticipated role as passive listener proves fortuitous, and Weston fulfills his goal. Bringing the book back to Miskatonic, though, proves to be a grave mistake. Quickly, Weston realizes he has played a role in potentially opening the gate between the netherworld and the world of Man. Reversing the course of events means forgetting all he thought he knew about Miskatonic and his professor and embracing an unknown beyond his wildest imagination.

My Thoughts

"I was Thomas of old, condemned not to believe, lest I see. Alas time would come when mine would see and mourn because of it."

It's that line that I held to because while its beginning was solid, the middle tried what little patience I had. I wanted to see what Carter saw and see I did... eventually. Talley writes with images in mind. He makes That Which Should Not Be dark and scary and confusing and new (at least to me it was.) The problem is it got too much at times even if the beginning piqued my interest. Starting with the MC shoved right into the action with little preparation, the 'thereafter,' was another matter. The middle tried me sorely because I wanted more of Carter, only what I got were stories within a story. A good deal of this is a couple of broken men telling their tales to an untested young man. Taken individually said stories ran along the lines of that fantasy/horror/sci-fi TV show, Amazing Stories. So it's horror, old school style; a lot of waiting and thinking and imagining less the blood and gore.

I suppose what bugged me was the waiting. Waiting for the connection to be made. Waiting for Carter's role to become clear. Only, if I'm absolutely honest it was precisely said waiting that built it up and had me considering, thinking about how those stories would connect. Were they connected? Could they be connected? Take Jack's Wendigo; Daniel scholomance, haunted abbey; William and his asylum; Captain Gray and his book; and finally, Carter and his search. Each bit was very easy to envision given the attention to detail. I mean, just consider this line, "Even with the blinding snow and darkened skies, some unknown glow illuminated the oily sea as it boiled and undulated under the ever gathering barrage." But all that said, the final 'reveal' was simply interesting, again, ala-Spielberg's Amazing Stories.

Too bad about the cover though, because scary as it may look, it does look a teensy bit cheesey. And this book is not cheesey...a bit slow at times but after a while, there really is a good story (a couple of good stories) in here. And what I liked most was it didn't mess about, but simply threw Carter into it. I will even admit to liking the back and forth between the then and now. I suppose considering this isn't a book I would typically read it really isn't bad. Heck, it's actually pretty interesting. Interesting enough that it had me making up theories and looking for connections.

Wait, a minute!
Back up a second... Comparisons to Amazing Stories actually do make this book sound cheesey, especially since the episode that is clearest in my memory is that of the killer wig in Hell Toupee (Yes, I even looked up the episode's title!) So, scratch that comparison and substitute Rosemary's Baby instead. Where nothing really scary really shows up on screen, but what terrifies is the product of one's imagination.


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