As I mentioned in a previous post, I often do some reading in the target genre prior to and during working on a book. Now, I don’t really read a lot in the horror genre, with the exception of some Lovecraft, and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, while involving monsters, aren’t really horror per se (though they are similar enough to what I write; there probably wouldn’t be a Jed Horn series without MHI).
But in the workup for Older and Fouler Things, I finally picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Residue, by Steve Diamond.
Short version: it is phenomenal.
It opens with a bang. Monsters, bloodshed, and a strangely competent young woman named Alex. Something has apparently gotten loose from a top-secret facility of some kind, and it’s left a lot of bodies behind. And Alex is trying to clean up the mess.
We shortly move to the perspective of Jack Bishop, seemingly an ordinary high-school kid, who is told early the next morning that his father, who worked at the top-secret facility, has gone missing. And in the course of trying to find out what happened to his dad, Jack inadvertently discovers that he’s got a strange ability of his own. He can see the psychic residue left behind by events, particularly paranormal ones.
With Alex soon watching over him, possibly for nefarious reasons, Jack embarks on the search for his father, and gets embroiled in deeper schemes, targeted by what might or might not be pseudo-government conspiracies, and has to fight his way clear of probably the bloodiest Homecoming dance ever.
Atmosphere, action, character development, and just sheer, downright creepiness is everywhere in this novel. Steve did a bang-up job. In many ways, it has similar tone and themes to Stranger Things, except that Residue came out in 2015.
One of the many things I agree with Larry Correia on is that straight horror, where the protagonists are completely helpless (often due to the Power of Stupid), I generally don’t like. It’s the great thing about MHI; “Evil Looms. Cowboy Up. Kill It. Get Paid.” I’ve gone a slightly different direction with the Jed Horn stories, but still, the protagonists aren’t shrinking violets.
Neither are Steve’s characters. Jack is in over his head, but instead of curling upinto the fetal position and waiting for his inevitable doom (or worse, bickering and fighting with people who aren’t the monster, long enough that they all get eaten), he cowboys up as best he can, learns whatever he can to fight the monsters, and puts it into practice.
All in all, an excellent read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.