|HORROR / THRILLER|
|STORY TIME||FANBOY||HORROR MOVIES||CONVENTIONS||SCIENCE MOMENT||HORRIBLE NEWS|
PHANTOM FEAST is a gruesome and original tale. Diana Barron glorifies in horrible, grizzly details. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be crushed to death by a boa constrictor, trampled by rampaging elephants, or eaten alive by lions and tigers, look no further. Barron brings all these things and more to horrible life. Literally.
Barron tells the story the small town of Hester, which is overtaken by
spirits. Though these are no mere garden variety of ghost. They are like
nothing you have ever seen before. A number of circus animals have burned
to death in a fire nearly a century before, and it is their souls that
haunt the town, and seek vengeance on its inhabitants. This is a most
original spin on the ghostly tale, as that most stories in that sub-genre
focus on human hauntings, not animal. Rounding out her novel with a carnival
of characters that includes a fat lady, midgets and dwarfs, motorcycle
is not to say, however, that it does not have its flaws. Barron has such
a large cast of characters, and introduces so many of them throughout
the course of the novel, half only to be killed off pages later, that
I had a little bit of difficulty identifying who the true protagonists
were. Though this added to the sense of dread that anything could happen
to any one of them at any time, it also made it a little difficult to
get into. One of the dwarves, Mickey, and his girlfriend Isolade, prove
to be central characters later on in the
Diana Barron does well to provide an exciting escalation of the terror as she builds toward the climax, but I found the ending to be a little bit ambiguous and disappointing. One of the characters is able to figure out what is going on and solve the puzzle, even though it is not evident just how he was able to so easily come up with the right answers. I had to wonder if they were given to him by the mystical hand of the storyteller. For my money, I also wanted a more concrete conclusion. The novel seems to have such great potential, that I felt a little dissatisfied that it did not end with a bigger bang.
These few things aside, however, PHANTOM FEAST is a great first novel.
is rare to find something as unique and original as this. One of the most
difficult aspects of being a writer of horror fiction is coming up with
ideas and concepts that have not been done before. Diana Barron has succeeded
in the hard part. Despite the fact that there are so many of them, Barron
also excels at her characterization. Each one truly seemed to live and
breathe. Even the ones that do not last very long are given the same depth
and loving attention as the others. This, again, is an aspect that many
writers struggle to accomplish, with variable success. And there is no
doubt that Barron also knows how to horrify. Just look at any of the death
scenes for an example. Each one is
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.