I’ve always said a pat on the back is only a few vertabrae removed from a kick in the ass, but miles ahead in results, so first I want to pat John Everson on the back.
The House by the Cemetery is a thoroughly enjoyable read, quickly paced with great writing, an interesting plot, some obscure references that were a lot of fun, a completely unforgettable climax, and good story resolution.
I tend to rate books on their merit, not on whether I personally liked every aspect or not. It seems fairer to me. In the case of The House by the Cemetery, I’m not a big fan of gore and at about the 75% mark, that’s where the book takes you right up to the end. I have nothing against splatterpunk and I’m not going to rail against it like it’s the end of times, I just don’t like it as much as straight-up horror. Still, even with that prejudice, I was totally immersed and very impressed with the book. When the gore started, I was still impressed--just wanted it to be over.
In splatterpunk, there always seems to be a defining moment.
For instance, remember when Richard Laymon was really on? Before publishers found those eye-bleeding manuscripts and decided they’d make a buck printing them?
You’d be reading along and he’d have you--you’d be hanging on every word, deep into the plot, the characters, the story. Then he’d throw a monkey wrench into the mix and you’d go, “Now, dammit, people don’t act that way.”
That’s what happened to me and The House by the Cemetery. Sure, I saw it coming--most folks will--but when “it” happened, the reaction of the opposing character was a “people don’t act that way” moment and it rattled my cage enough to take me right out of the book. Up to that point, the prose and the characters were excellent and I was buying it all.
But there’s a point in the suspension of disbelief where you have to go (and this isn’t in the book--it’s an example), “She finds out her boyfriend is actually a sewer rat who can shape-shift and the sex is so good that she’s okay with that? Oh, bullshit.”
And except for that one little ham-handed paragraph that cloyed at me (and that’s a reflection on me, not the book), this is a first-rate horror novel; everything else about it is rock solid.
If gore, blood, and guts are your thing, you’ll be very pleased. If not, you’ll still find it enjoyable.
So that’s it.
Pat on the back, little kick in the ass, and another pat on the back.