Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ANIMOSITY by James Newman

This is the type of story that I'm a sucker for: the focus on the dark-side of human nature and how society naturally can turn on itself and become something terrifying.  Here, we follow a commercially successful horror writer that stumbles onto the corpse of a raped and murdered little girl, and the way that the media and gossip causes his small town to turn against him.

Much of your enjoyment of this novel might hinge on how well you think the transition into the mob mentality works. And it didn't work for me as much as I'd hoped. And no, I'm not naive. It's not that I don't believe that people and the nature of society are capable of such depravity (because they are), it's just that I was never able to truly buy into the fact that these particular people would react so quickly in this way, in this particular situation. I wish that the book was longer and spent a little more time building the case against Andy, or more time on building the town gossip's snowball effect. And this is coming from a guy who wishes that all books could be novella length. But if more time was spent involving the child victim's family for example, if we felt their involvement more in community and the story, if their agony and desperate suspicions helped to fuel the town's anger, and the cycle that would come from that, that would have helped. I'm sure that's part of what caused the town to react in the way they did, I just wish we got more of a sense of it in the book. If there was a little more of a build-up, I might have bought more into the idea of a bunch of over-the-hill housewives brandishing garden shears and ganging up for a public lynching, or a soft-spoken pregnant woman reduced to attempting to claw out the eyes of an 11-year-old girl. I know the speed of the transition to brutality is the whole point and I understood it intellectually but it just never really rang as genuine to me. I also could've done without the whole summary of the novel's themes in the epilogue, as if I needed it all spelled out for me...

But it seems like I'm the only one who thinks this. The book has mostly great reviews, so I'm an almost one-man minority with this less than great review, so don't let this stop you from reading it. I still enjoyed it; it's still a tense, suspenseful read, and the furthest thing from boring. Superficially, the novel still really works as a great thriller. It's definitely worth a read and seems like it would be a great conversation starter.  Many might wonder why this novel is considered horror. There are no ghouls, goblins, ghosts, vampires, demons, or werewolves. But what this book is about is something way more horrifying. It's about the the possibilities of violence that human nature has in store for us all, and the fact that we all have potential of being the victims or the perpetrators. A scary thought.


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