Thursday, February 2, 2012

Off the Rack - Little Brothers

When I thought up the Off the Rack segment of TN, my original intention was to create a space in the blog in which I could share my love of books and comics. Part of that was to share articles and things I find online, but also to actually talk about what I am reading.
I often find myself pouring through books, some memorable, and many are not. And while I have mentioned before my reticence in writing reviews, occasionally there is no better way to really talk about something. Don't think of Off the Rack as always being reviews, but sometimes its just my way of steering the viewership towards things I have found of some literary, or atleast entertaining value. And who knows, perhaps you will learn something, or when you are next out looking for something to read, it might help you find something. 'Course the last thing I would want to do is to try and get more people to read!
So despite what I have said about reviews, here is one for the fun little horror novel Little Brothers by Rick Hautala. Review after the jump, but first, it wouldn't be TN without an excuse to draw something.

Wandering through the endless tables of the annual library book sale, I was growing restless at finding much of interest. At less than fifty cents per book, I was starting to wonder why my arms weren't filled to capacity. I am not particularly picky on what I read, I will read anything, and if it doesn't interest me, I do not feel bad at putting it down.
Sitting atop a pile of old yellow paperbacks, the big eyes of some cheesy little creature stared back at me from an old embossed cover. At forty cents, I bought a simple little eighties horror creature feature called, Little Brothers.
I wasn't expecting much from Rick Hautala's novel, but to be honest, I don't want a lot from my killer monster fiction. It is a genre that I find is becoming harder and harder to find (it doesn't help that horror fiction seems to be a dying art as well). And while it was campy and a bit cliché, I actually had a lot of fun reading the book.
As anyone familiar with the genre will know, you have a central protagonist, usually one who has seen or has some experience with the monster, who must later face off against the preternatural evil creature in spite of no one else believing him. We have seen it all before, but it still works. The trick is in how you portray the elements.  And Rick Hautala, with his atmospheric and ghost story background, fleshes out the elements.
Much of the novel, at a lengthy 525 pages (much longer than typically found in horror), is dedicated to fleshing out the characters of a small northeastern town. And while some don't break far from their usual clichés, like the small minded local cop, others become quite interesting. To me though the real draw lay in the relationship between the main protagonist, a twelve-year old boy, and the others. He witnessed his mother's death at the hand of ungodly creatures, and ever since it feels like the world has been far from on his side. Troubles with his still grieving father, his stubborn bully of a brother, and then his unlikely friendship with the town drunk. In fact the strongest point of Little Brothers is in the characters, and the novel almost could have stood on its own as a tail of a young boy just trying to deal with grief in his own family. Though Hautala gets a little carried away as some of the characters' motives seem to sudden come out of nowhere. The main protagonist seems to have a hard time, but the sudden desire to run away seems a bit out of character for the kid we had grown to understand.
And while the novel isn't strong, it certainly isn't the worst in the genre, or even worse than some of works of bigger names like John Saul or Stephen King. But let's face it, just like a Creature Feature film, it's the monsters we are here for. Those creepy crawlies, and other worldly beings that fill our imagination and take form in the darkness behind sleeping eyelids. So in Little Brothers it is all about the oddly named Untcigahunk. Inspired by Micmac folklore and the stories of nearly every Native American group, they are swarms of little people hidden within the wild. Coming to the surface every five-years these little brothers are on the rampage and raking their dagger-like claws through any flesh they can get a hold of.
In the end, this was a fun little bit of late night entertainment, and actually felt like a bit more than a cheap thrill. It played a lot like an old eighties fright-fest, and if it were a film, I think it would have been an enjoyable bit of camp. The characters are interesting, and the writing of reasonable quality. The ending was certainly not the best I have read in a while, but I was certainly left wanting more (or at least wanting some of my questions answered). But what made the book really worth the read, was the creepy little beasties, tiny little people crawling out of their caves to kill unsuspecting teens and townsfolk. And if nothing else, the newly released Untcigahunk, a complete volume with various short stories is now available digitally for only $2.99 on Amazon. Not my well spent forty cents, but not bad for what it is worth.
TN Score:
Little Brothers - Rick Hautala
6.5/10 Tentacles

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