Friday, December 18, 2009

Death Mill Mansion - Will Hartzell-Baird

This review comes from our awesome guest reviewer and my friend Daniel Nighting, now father of TWO children (one of them a new-born baby girl). I can't believe he managed to actually read a book, let alone review it, on the 30 minutes of sleep a night he is likely getting.

Summary: A dark and stormy night...
As has been documented in any number of movies and books, there is a particular class of mansion that, through some indescribable means, bestows unanticipated engine/tire difficulty upon passing cars, forcing the unsuspecting occupants to knock on the door, asking to use the phone, never to be seen or heard from again. Countless motorists have been lost to these devious abodes, as well as to the mysterious mansion's close relatives, the darkened gas station and the eerily silent farm community looming unassumingly in the distance. Coincidentally, on a dark, stormy night while driving on an unfamiliar country road, Robbie inexplicably experiences car trouble... (summary from the book - image from www.hartzellbaird.com)

My Review: Few authors would like to hear their work described as being patched together from cliches and stock characters. Will Hartzell-Baird, I suspect, is one of those few. Like a sort of literary Frankenstein's monster (who, incidentally, appears in the book, along with werewolves, vampires, serial killers, mad scientists, deranged robots, and... well, pretty much everybody), Death Mill Mansion is sewn together from the hackneyed corpses of every B-movie and pulp thriller ever made.

...and like Frankenstein's monster, it's alive! ALIVE! With wry wit and keen eye for absurdity, this book breathes life into the stale tropes of the sci-fi and horror genres, deconstructing them, turning them inside-out, and piling weirdness on weirdness until the reader is sucked into an alternate dimension, the plaything of the author's warped imagination. What's more, the book does so while dancing blithely over a morass of potential plot holes, inconsistencies, and paradoxes without once falling in.*

The only failing of Death Mill Mansion, as far as I'm concerned, is the complete lack of any law-related humor.** On occasion, Hartzell-Baird seems to get carried away with a scene and lose track of the plot, but he always manages to find a bizarre new crisis (rather, a new twist to the ongoing crisis that is the plot) before the reader has a chance to lose interest. This book was so well paced that it took the birth of my new daughter to make me put it down.

*And it has footnotes, too! More novels should have footnotes.
**Read the book.

My Rating: 5 stars. An excellent book for when your reality is just too boring.

Sum it up: In some parallel universe--one with far more zombies--this is comic Shakespeare.

(this book was given to us for review)

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