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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Halloweenland by Al Sarrantonio

This was a random pickup from my local library book sale and was a total blind buy. I had never heard of Sarrantonio, but the cover of the book looked pretty cool and I thought the name could be something right up my alley. I decided to take a shot and tossed it at the top of my to read pile when I got home.

Bill Grant is a police detective in the small town of Orangefield where he has experienced “weird shit” which is how the character describes all of the supernatural things that seem to happen in his town. This includes a woman being visited by her husband, who at the time was lying dead in the back seat of his friends car after being run down on the road. That visit results in a child that is fathered by Samhain… who I think is death or maybe works for death. There seems to be something that I’m missing because there are characters and history referenced that I’ve not seen explained.

It was about this point where I realized that Halloweenland is a sequel to another book called Horrorween. That would have been helpful to have known before jumping into this one. Nevertheless I soldiered on. Grant gets caught up tracking down the child of this weird encounter after he is unsuccessful in stopping her birth, it is a girl. The kid is five when she returns to town to end the world. How? I’m really not sure as that is another thing that isn’t explained at all. This time I don’t think it has anything to do with the prior book though, just not fleshed out. Some characters die, who I think are from the previous book, and then it is over.

This book was a chore to get thru and it is only two hundred thirty-six pages long. The last seventy plus pages are the novella which is basically almost identical to the first seventy pages of the book which it was expanded to. I suppose this is a “bonus”, but I felt a bit cheated. In fact this entire book felt like a big cheat. The ending is rushed and isn’t satisfying at all. Though I wasn’t invested in the paper-thin characters but I did spend a few hours reading Halloweenland so I should get some kind of actual resolution. When I got to the final page I honestly muttered, “what the hell was the point of this?”. I mean other than to make a few bucks. I spent twenty-five cents on my copy at the sale and it wasn’t worth it.

I get that some folks might immediately think that I should read the other book before being too hard on this one. But a good author can and will make continuing stories accessible to new readers. Even if this is a brief conversation between characters recapping what has happened it shouldn’t be that difficult. Considering how short the actual book is, especially not counting the pages from the “bonus novella” it seems like they had plenty of room and that the effort to do so would have been minimal. Hell they don’t even mention anywhere on the cover that this is the second in a series or give any other warning to a potential reader.

What was on the cover of the paperback that I purchased was a quote from the Washing Post Book World claiming that the author was “A very talented writer.” With all due respect I believe we shall have to agree to disagree on this. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one. There are much better books out there that cover similar stories and settings. May I suggest the Oxrun series from Charles Grant a couple of which I’ve reviewed for the site here and here.


Ó Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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