Review of Nate Kenyon - The Bone Factory
As we pick up the action, David Pierce is in a hole. Unemployed since a bust up with his previous boss, and with a young family to support, when he is offered a job at a remote hydroelectric project deep in the Canadian forest, he has no option but to accept.
However things are not quiet and peaceful as he might hope in the remote community he and his family are about to join. A local farmer was discovered dead, missing his head, and a young girl and cop have recently disappeared. David, his wife Helen and their daughter Jessie are about to move into Ground Zero, the centre of the killing fields.
There's a quote on the front of this book likening Kenyon's writing to early Stephen King. On the strength of this book I have to agree with this - although maybe it's a little too similar.
A number of the elements of this may be familiar. We have a couple whose marriage has problems, with a slightly weird kid who seems to have some psychic ability, moving into the middle of nowhere in winter. Throw in a bit of mental instability and it sounds a little bit like The Shining doesn't it? So far you might feel there is little about this book that will make you want to read it. Okay, it might not win prizes for originality, but there is much to recommend here.
For once the kid with powers angle manages to be neither creepy (very much overdone in fiction) nor annoying (something I thought the only alternative to creepy). Jessie has premonitions, glimpses of the future that she accepts calmly even when they are portents of great danger.
Kenyon has portrayed the townsfolk of Jackson as a real community, people care about each other here. And he's done this very efficiently, dropping in just enough human caring without drowning you in syrupy goo.
The author has also handled his sub-plots well. Adding in an environmental investigation against a power plant was a risky touch on Kenyon's part. It could so easily have become little more than vitriolic raving - pages of narrative needlessly interrupted just so the author can get on his/her soapbox. Not so here, Kenyon has reeled in any excess he may have been tempted to indulge. There is no story element here that isn't needed; everything contributes to the whole.
Kenyon's writing still is wonderfully simple, unencumbered with over-elaboration, yet still richly descriptive. He sets his scenes simple, without feeling it necessary to describe the room's curtains or the number of trees lining Main Street. He also isn't over the top, he manages to creep you out, and doesn't have to drown you in the red and sticky. Kenyon is not at the top of horror's tree yet, but on the strength of his first three novels, it wouldn't surprise me to see him there soon.