THE SUMMONING - 1993
By Bentley Little
I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading this book.
It was published back in 1993, but apparently has never gotten the attention
it deserves. Like Doug Clegg's THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, this is a fun,
new twist on the vampire tale. And yes, such a thing is possible . . .
The town of Rio Verde, Arizona has a corrupt Pastor name of Dan Wheeler. Jesus
appears to Dan, and asks him to build a church. A black church. Pretty
soon ol' Jesus is asking Dan to sacrifice small animals . . . and that's only the beginning.
By the time the local law finds some totally drained and very dead bovines in a field,
many of the residents are already under the spell of Dan Wheeler and readying
themselves for the second coming. Unfortunately, we are the
only ones who realize what's coming ain't what anyone expects.
Little credits girlfriend Wai Sau for her input, and one can easily see why. The delightful
twist here is that a Chinese family that owns a restaurant in Rio Verde
then recognizes that the intruder is cup-hu-girngsi, or the-corpse-who-drinks-blood.
The introduction of Chinese folklore takes what might otherwise be a predictable
Salems Lot in the desert story and kicks it into high
There are some weaknesses, to be sure. Little is a solid, well-structured writer
but is somewhat limited stylistically. The way the townspeople begin to
mutter about the presence of a vampire and yet hang around to be slaughtered
strains credulity to the breaking point. There are moments when the novel
feels padded, as if 500 pages were a contractual requirement. But when
Little relies on elements drawn from the culture of the transplanted Chinese,
this book soars. In fact, the ancient grandmother plays a pivotal role
in the bloody denouement.
The cup-hu-girngsi is also a shape-shifter, and I have to tell you that no one has ever made
the image of a pudgy Elvis standing on a street corner as grotesque and
terrifying as Little does here! I had to put the book down for a moment.
In other novels, such as THE STORE, the author takes potshots at American society:
Rampant consumerism and our preoccupation with material goods. In THE SUMMONING he attacks blind religious obedience and, to some extent, the rigidity
of some peoples born again thinking. That shows some
serious balls. This guy knows horror can be used for a variety of purposes,
including social commentary.
Good book. Four BookWyrms.
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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