When I go to an amusement park the last thing I want to do is sit through some dopey stunt show or putz around an “educational” display. Hell no, I want to get on the biggest and fastest roller-coaster, ride it until blood is dripping from my eyes and then vomit all over anyone unlucky enough to be in my vicinity. That’s just the type of guy I am. I feel the same way about my ghost stories. Of course, I can appreciate a slow burn that concerns itself with atmosphere but what I really like are the supernatural tales that get in there and get dirty…..real quick. I guess this is why I was so thoroughly satisfied with Hunter Shea’s newest novel, Forest of Shadows .
The dead still hate!
John Backman specializes in inexplicable phenomena. The weirder the better. So when he gets a letter from a terrified man describing an old log home with odd whisperings, shadows that come alive, and rooms that disappear, he can’t resist the call. But the violence only escalates as soon as John arrives in the remote Alaskan village of Shida. Something dreadful happened there. Something monstrous. The shadows are closing in…and they’re out for blood.
Hunter Shea is absolutely ruthless. The man writes with a passion and aggression that will leave you helpless in its grasp. Shea keeps his eyes on the prize and everything else is secondary. He wants you to cringe. He wants your skin to crawl. He wants to positively scare you out of your god-given wits. Like I said, the man is ruthless. I can appreciate Shea’s style. He wants to tell a ghost story that doesn’t meander around with sweeping atmosphere and slow progression. His version of a ghost story involves some evil-as-all-get-out ghosts, some local legend and a hefty heaping of heartache. Throw in ample amounts of booze and you have the makings for one refreshingly original tale.
Above anything else, Forest of Shadows is a genuinely scary book. Now that may sound a bit simple but after years of reading dreadful tales, it takes quite a bit to get my blood pumping. The real highlight of Forest of Shadows is Hunter Shea’s ability to craft a tale that is so frantic with the pacing and yet, so subtle with the horror. In fact, I was having so much fun with the story that I didn’t realize how effectively the story was haunting my subconscious. It took a few restless nights and one incredibly vivid nightmare about whispering shadows and the floating visage of a young boy, before I realized how successful this book was at scaring the living daylights out of me. It had worked its way into my brain and nestled in there, coiled to spring at any given moment. This book scared me in a way I haven’t been scared in a very long time.
This is all a testament to Hunter Shea’s talent as a writer. He takes a premise that could quite honestly, be considered hokey and works it so well that it seems believable. Initially when I read the first pages that describe an amateur ghost-hunter who loses his wife and wins the lottery on the same day, I was a little skeptical. Can you blame me? This skepticism was completely unfounded as Shea sucked me into a world filled with ancient evil, teenage angst, heartbreak and a town with a very strange past. That town is Shida and it just may be one of the most frightening places you’re libel to visit.
The Alaskan town of Shida makes for the perfect backdrop to this bone chilling tale. Shea creates a spine numbing sense of isolation as he draws a vivid portrait of this wilderness town. Hell, Shea almost seems so confident in his ability to remove Shida from reality that he will tease the reader by discussing Shida’s proximity to many major Alaskan parks and cities, all while the reader knows that there is no escape from the diabolical events that Shea has in store for us. Shida is as much the star of this story as any character, all while the reader comes to realize that the dark shadows that obscure the towns past are more frightening than anything that may be whispering to them from the Great Beyond.
This book has me extremely excited about Hunter Shea. I can respect an author who takes the ghost story and completely disregards its well worn conventions to create something truly original. He preaches from the Altar of Pulp- spewing a sermon filled with his own merciless interpretation of what this genre should be. I love seeing a newcomer just completely rip it and own the living daylights out his writing. I expect some very big things from Hunter Shea in the very near future.