Thursday, April 23, 2020

UNIDENTIFIED by Michael McBride

It should be no surprise that I once again really enjoyed a novella by Michael McBride. The author really knows how to entertain, engage, and frighten with a well-molded story. Its set-up has elements that recall Stephen King's IT but obviously much more compressed at less than a hundred pages. It tells parallel stories of childhood friends when they're younger and 40 years later, confronting an inexplicable terror that slowly revealed as the story progresses. It's tight and efficient, and suitably creepy. It's definitely not as effective or as memorable as other works like Sunblind or Snowblind, but  I definitely recommend this as a quick read.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020


There was a place where all light tends to go, and I reckon that was heaven.
After reading The Line That Held Us, I was stunned by David Joy's writing and I wanted to read more of his work. I decided to go back to the beginning and, wow, what a fantastic debut novel! Joy is now, to me, an author that demands to always be on the must-read list. His work isn't merely country crime or grit-lit. There's something else going on here.

The novel is told from the point of view of Jacob McNeely, a young man growing up in his father's North Carolina meth ring business, resigned to his lot in life. But the aftermath of a brutal murder and the rekindling of an old flame force him to consider the fact that he has other options and can change his life.
Blood's thicker than water and I was drowning in it. I was sinking down in that blood, and once I hit bottom, no one would find me.
I was surprised by how little the book focused on the murder or the crystal meth business. For a crime novel, very little time is spent on the actual big crimes. Instead, the focus is all on Jacob as a character and his struggle to change his legacy. It's a sad, mournful novel that's emotionally resonant and beautifully written by David Joy, with a terrific and fitting conclusion. Jacob's feeling of helplessness in his situation touched me, as well as his awakening and eventual dreams of escaping this life. There's a running theme in the book about what it means to be a man and the virtues of being  "hard," with Jacob's father constantly saying that Jacob is weak. I found Jacob to be much more of a man than his dad was, with his self-awareness and honesty being the virtues that truly mean something.
Some souls aren't worth saving, I thought. There're some souls that even the devil wants no part of.