Terminal Island by Walter Greatshell
Published December 4th, 2012 by Night Shade Books
Cover and synopsis provided by the publisher.
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Henry Cadmus grew up on Catalina Island, a scenic vacationland off the Southern California coast. But Henry’s experiences were far from idyllic. Today, even though Henry has seen firsthand the horrors of war, the ghastly images that haunt his dreams is one he associates with his childhood… and the island: a snarling pig-man holding a cleaver; a jackal-headed woman on a high balcony, dripping blood; strange occult rituals… and worse. If it was up to Henry, he would avoid the island entirely.
But Henry is returning to Catalina Island. At his wife Ruby’s insistence, Henry, Ruby, and their infant daughter are coming to Avalon, so that Henry can face his fears, exorcise his demons, and reconcile with the one he fears most… his mother.
From Walter Greatshell, author of Xombies comes Terminal Island, a novel of cosmic horror.
This book was…strange, there really is no other word for it. I have postponed writing this review for a few days to find a better word to describe it but I can’t find one. Parts of this story had me clutching my ereader in a death grip with fear for the characters. Parts of this story just left me scratching my head as I thought “Wait, what?” The basic premise is that Henry lived the life of a wanderer when he was growing up, his mother moving him from place to place with regularity. When his mother decided to move him to Catalina Island he fell in love with the place. Shortly after, however, he begs his mother to leave and she complies. Now that he is married and has a child, his mother has dropped off the map. They were never close, but now he hears that she has moved to Catalina Island and is returning his letters. His wife, Ruby, suggests that they go find his mother and sort this out. Henry is overcome with apprehension at returning to the place of his childhood nightmares but agrees.
This novel jumps between Henry’s perspective of the island in the present and flashbacks of his time on the island as a child. This is very disconcerting and pulls the reader out of their comfort zone, I thought this was a very good tactic. This is supposed to be a horror type novel, I shouldn’t have a comfort zone! And with this novel I never did and I liked it. While reading, you are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t. Henry has memories of the girls at his school chasing him down and trying to kill him and stumbling into a butcher shop where the butcher is wearing the head of a pig and brandishing a cleaver. He has dreams about nearly drowning and finding himself face to face with a monster that lived under the ocean and tried to hold him underwater. Part of me wanted these things to be real because the descriptions were fascinating.
The writing of this book and the plot were all very good. The pacing was also good but it got a big slow at the end. As the pieces of this story began to unravel I found myself growing more intrigued with this story than I was at the beginning. But I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled with everything. There was a large section of time when I kept thinking to myself “Wait, is X in on this or not? And if they are, how long has this been going on?” Then there is a part when Henry is trying to protect his daughter, who was just barely yelling and calling for him, and the ending of that part was just weird and it didn’t feel genuine to me. Similarly the occult ritual that takes place was very long and I started to skim it to get to the interesting parts. I was still not totally aware at the end what was real and what wasn’t and that annoyed me. But also at the end it just started to get cheesy. For example, this line: “They killed the sheriff. But they did not kill the deputy.” I swear to God that’s actually in there. That was so corny and dumb it just pulled me right out of the story. When we reached the ending I was so ready for it to just be over that I started skimming again. Because of that, there was never a big monumental moment of “Oh my God!” about the ending. It was just over.
This was a good book in its entirety. It was intriguing and entertaining but I felt like the unraveling of the mystery could have been done better. And the ending was pretty lengthy and it started to drag which effected my enjoyment of the conclusion of the plot. If you are a big fan of mysteries and horror novels then this is one that you should give a read. But if you are not deeply interested in these genres then I would suggest you give this one a miss.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review. Thank you Night Shade Books!