Monday, September 17, 2007

Book Review: The Keeper by Sarah Langan

To me, summer means hanging out with friends, ridiculous amounts of barbecuing, long days, hot nights and lots of reading. I don’t know what it is, but summer is the time I catch up on my reading and re-read some old favorites. This summer is no different, but I had the pleasure of reading many authors that were new to me. One of those authors was Sarah Langan. I read her book The Keeper while sipping lemonade on my sun dappled porch and was stunned at how alone and cold her book made me feel.

If a horror novel can hit me that hard and affect me so much, it’s a very good thing.

The Keeper is a very frightening novel that gets under your skin. It’s hard not to relate to the characters’ darker nature and the town’s depressing state. The novel gets darker and darker as it progresses until its oppressive atmosphere begins to affect your very thoughts. Langan has crafted a very gloomy novel with The Keeper.

From the back of the book: Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford’s unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she’s now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she watches eerily from the shadows, waiting for . . . something. And haunting the sleep of everyone in town with monstrous visions of violence and horror.

Those who are able will leave Bedford before the darkness fully ascends. But those who are trapped here—from Susan Marley’s long-suffering mother and younger sister to her guilt-ridden, alcoholic ex-lover to the destitute and faithless with nowhere else to go — will soon know the fullest and most terrible meaning of nightmare.

I was extremely impressed with The Keeper, but even more so when I discovered that this was Sarah Langan’s first novel! The Keeper is a creepy, deeply unsettling work that is sure to mark the start of a very promising career.

Langan’s vivid descriptions bring the characters and the town to life. Her descriptions are so detailed that I felt like I was in Bedford, inhaling the putrid sulfuric air alongside the townsfolk. The dark, depressing town becomes a character all its own, slowly sucking the life out of its inhabitants. For such a life-like and well-described tome, I felt that the characters could have been developed a little more. Instead of identifying with them, I actually found myself liking and feeling sorry for Susan Marley more than most of the townies.

The novel has a slow, languorous pace for the first ¾ of it, but it kicks into high gear for the grand finale. Dead things start coming back to life, the old mill starts spewing its poison and Susan Marley and the ghosts of Bedford encroach on its last remaining citizens. The beginning book deals with the characters that live in town and their deep secrets and relationships to Susan Marley. I felt the pace was appropriate throughout the book and didn’t have issue with it. Langan’s poetic prose made me feel like I was in a waking nightmare, much of how the characters within the book must have felt.

The descriptions of horror are very effective. People die in very grisly ways and the dark, bad things that slowly seep into Bedford are very disturbing. In an early scene, a girl is chased through the cemetery by something, which sounds pretty cliché, but Langan manages to evoke fear out of the reader nonetheless.

The Keeper is Sarah Langan’s first full-length published novel, which is surprising considering what a wonderful writer she is. With this her first novel, she has already been compared to Stephen King. There is no doubt that this bright new talent has a great future ahead of her.

For a spine-tingling chill in the heat of summer, pick up Sarah Langan’s The Keeper.

Available from Amazon!

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