Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Goblin (Part One)

In a lot of scary stories, some thing  is always out to get you. You're often displaced..., in the woods, or in a haunted house, or some foreign place devoid of a sense of safety... That's where so many horror stories take place...

But what happens when home is where the horror is?  What if the monster, or the mania, or the dread, was always just down the street from you? What is eeriness was like an invisible neighbor? 

Rather than recast an ostensibly safe, cozy, quiet suburb, (some picturesque place like a Haddonfield or a Derry), into something that's suddenly unsettling and hostile, author Josh Malerman (Bird Box) has dreamt up his own city with Goblin.

Goblin’s a place of almost permanent overcast skies and damp dark nights; a place where it’s haunted past wasn't paved over, necessarily, but instead is something almost physically manifested, something in the air that’s just quietly, guardedly acknowledged. In the vein of, say, Twin Peaks, the residents of Goblin are very aware that they live in a uniquely strange place. But it’s only through the six stories that Malerman presents in this new book that we’re able to glimpse just who, or what, might be conducting the will and energies of this unnamable creepiness.

A recent review raved for Goblin’s conjuring of things like Dario Argento films, Creepshow, and Grand Guignol horror theater. “…and that’s exactly what I was going for,” Malerman said. “Though I probably approached it more like a season of Outer Limits.

With Goblin, a reader can follow the individual lives of six citizens on one night; one rather dark, and fateful night, that is. This interconnected collection of stories are novella-sized scares detailing unique encounters and various waking nightmares, with Malerman set more in the mold of the eerie “weird tales” of yore, ala Lovecraft, or capturing other high-energy yarns like Tales From The Crypt, emphasizing the setting, characters quirks and plot, and hooking you right from the get-go with each successive supernatural circumstance.

“It’s like strapping into the rusty metal cart that rides you through the old carnival ‘Haunted House’ attraction…” Malerman said, not so much talking about his readers experience of Goblin, but rather, the terrible "track" of some of its unfortunate inhabitants. "Each of the characters, you find, are kind of pulled by something or toward something…”

And they might not know what that something is… A brash, glory hound hunter tears off into feared and forbidden woods like a man possessed to bag some supernatural game; a worn-thin worker at the zoo contemplates the sacrificing of his own soul to atone for all of man’s cruelty; a middle-schooler clasps his youthful naivety to believe in magic and becomes perilously transfixed by the charms of a treacherous illusionist…

“Something missing from Goblin, though, is that you see a lot of horrors befall characters in other stories that have, like, these unatoned-for sins, or guilt. With some of these stories, you ask, what did they do to deserve this?” One man, a portly recluse and hyper-paranoiac, is absolutely certain that his apartment is haunted. But he doesn’t fear the idea of a ghostly presence, he fears, very specifically, that he’s doomed into an encounter with one apparition that will be so intense that it will surely “scare him to death.”   

“And, so, how do you avoid what you think is, essentially, destiny?” Malerman wonders aloud...

And what if that destiny is pulling you towards a kind of darkness? 

.....to be continued...

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