Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Wide Game Book Review

Title: The Wide Game
Author: Michael West
Publisher: Graveside Tales
Pages: 408
ISBN: 9780983314103

There are fewer things that I look forward to than picking up a debut novel from an author whose work I've already read. For me, Michael West is one of those authors. In August of last year, I wrote a review for West's short story anthology Skull Full of Kisses, and loved it. As I've mentioned before, if a writer can prove their worth to me through the form of shorter works, then more times than not, I'm all over their debut novel.

Therefore, The Wide Game was a No-Brainer for me.

Here's the synopsis from the back of the book:

On the advice of his wife, Paul Rice is making plans to attend his 10th year High School reunion. Returning to his boyhood home of Harmony, Indiana, he finds that he is still haunted by memories of that time -- memories of Deidra, his first love, and memories of the Wide Game. It was ten years ago that Paul and his friends watched their day of fun become a race for their lives, a fight for their very souls.

Now, as he meets the survivors of that day once more, Paul makes a chilling discovery: the incomprehensible forces that toyed with them have yet to finish playing their own game.

After having read the synopsis for the first time, I thought that The Wide Game would be nothing more than a psycho-slasher thriller, with an upset ex-lover or escaped convict obsessed with the idea of revenge in whatever way possible. I mean, what better setting would there be for a slasher than a cornfield full of teenagers? I was glad to be proven wrong. The Wide Game is something far better than anything I could have hoped for.

As with Skull Full of Kisses, I found myself returning to the pages of the book for a second time, only a few days after having finished it the first time. Specifically to that of Harmony, Indiana; to Paul and Deidra; and to The Wide Game itself. And most of it had to do with the relationships between the characters; most notably: Paul and Deidra. Their relationship is at the core of the novel, and the thing that first grabbed my attention.

It seems as though what constitutes as Horror these days, -- both in prose and the screen -- is nothing more than a quick fix of blood, guts and shock value. With The Wide Game it is more than that, forcing the reader to think and digest as they go; a breath of fresh air for those who have finally decided to breath good air.

Real air.

Throughout The Wide Game, the setting switches several times between the present, and the past, beginning with Paul, and then delving in to the meat of the story: his adolescent love life, the situations that have defined him as an adult, and the Wide Game itself. As the story switches focus, the cast increases, and as I was being introduced to the different teenagers that populated the High School of Harmony, Indiana, -- specifically the cadre of friends that band together throughout parts of the novel -- I couldn't help but be reminded of the 80's film "The Breakfast Club." Although a subtle nod towards the culture of the 80's, West does a marvelous job with making the reader feel as though they really are in the 80's; deftly submerging the reader into the culture of the era, without bogging down the flow.

As with any first novel there are problems, but they are far and few between. Although an explanation is given for the reasoning behind the forces controlling the game itself, there's never a really in-depth explanation given. And then there's the pace of the tale: overall, it reads smoothly, but there are some parts that seem to bog down the flow of the story. However it's nothing that will deter from enjoying the characters, suspense and over all brilliance of the novel.

And one last bit of interest: the same person who did the cover for Michael's short story anthology Skull Full of Kisses, also did the cover for The Wide Game. Another spot on (in my opinion) portrayal of West's work by horror author Bob Freeman, whose novel Descendant, I recently reviewed.

I loved every single page of The Wide Game, it's that simple. That's why I'm giving it 9 out of 10 TARDIS's. It's an excellent debut novel, and I wouldn't be surprised if it makes it's way onto my Best of 2011 list.

If you're tired of the monotonous plague that has destroyed the label of Horror, enjoy being scared out of your skull, and falling in love with the characters, then The Wide Game will make an excellent addition to your library.


No comments:

Post a Comment