I’m currently reading War and Peace. I loved Anna Karenina, and it’s been in my TBR pile for a long time. So I went for it. I’m 140 pages in and needed a break. Tolstoy is great, but it’s not something I can sink my teeth into, that I can lose myself in. For that, for a two day break, I picked up James Newman’s The Wicked.

I lost myself. The pacing was fantastic, and I tore through it in two days. I found the characters to be believable, and Newman made sure they were balanced. I was into the characters—the Little family: David, Kate, and their daughter Becca. Supporting characters Joel and George were great, too. (Joel was my favorite.)

This is a story of “family moves from big city to small town only to find greater evil here”. Newman approaches the trope with respect and admiration. It’s not a rehashing of an old story so much as a new imagining. All the familiar pieces that horror fans crave are there, right where you expect them to be, but not in a stilted, formulaic way.

My only regret is that I got the ebook and not the paperback. The marketing (and the whole book) is a throwback to those delicious (often terrible) horror paperbacks from the eighties. You know the ones I mean: lurid glossy covers with cutouts and holograms and amusing catchphrases. I recently picked one up out of a free book bin at the grocery store. The book stated: “From beyond the grave an old woman reaches out to steal the body and soul of an innocent child!” (The exclamation point is key.) As fans of the genre know, horror made it big in the 80’s, so big that any scary story (or movie) was sold, the market became oversaturated, and the genre’s still reeling to recover. Newman took this bull by the horns, though, and created a loving homage to the good stuff from the 80’s (of which there is a lot.) Those paperbacks, even the bad ones, were a lot of fun, and Newman captures that flawlessly.

And that cover? Look at that guy! Evil! I’ll never look at beards in the same way. I used to think they were smokin’ hot. Now I have to check them for creatures before I can approve them.