Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt (40:00)

IOD-MalusDomesticaToday’s survivor shows us that spooking the reader works best if you first take the time to make them care.

What I gleaned about the story: Forget the wicked hags of Oz, if you want your witches to be really scary, put ’em right there in your home town and have them serve cookies to your kids.

Find this book on Amazon.

Kudos #1: Nice touch of humor

Details: Nothing sets up a horror tale like a bit of levity, and I find that the best laughter comes from characters just being themselves. In this bit, David is a Jehova’s Witness, canvassing homes on a hot, sweaty day. So sweaty that he’s worried it will soak through his shirt and into his bag of pamphlets. Then he observes that: Few people are amenable to receiving Jesus into their heart, but when Jesus is suspiciously damp even the country folk won’t talk to you.

I don’t know about you all, but I actually chuckled.

Note: I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do read some, and most of the indie stuff I’ve tried seems preoccupied with the slasher-film, buckets of blood style horror. That might work well for Hollywood, but it doesn’t work at all for me when it’s done in print. Fortunately though, Hunt doesn’t fall into that trap. He seems to know that the best scares come when terrifying things happen to people you care about. And that means that, first, he’s got to make you care about somebody. So he gives us a little taste of the scarey that’s a’comin’, and then he settles down and let’s us spend time getting to know a few of the nicer folks around town. I can feel the tension rising with each new person I meet. And there are frequent enough turns of oddity to remind me that this is not Mayberry.

I haven’t reached the blood-curdling terror yet, but I’m actually glad of that. The writing is tight, the characters are fascinating, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of having that invisible hook of empathy shoved deeply down my throat. When Hunt finally starts reeling me in, I fully expect to be dragged screaming face-first down into whatever hell he has waiting for me.

I can hardly wait.

Note: I finished the book a day or two later. What a ride! The stakes keep going up and Hunt keeps dragging you along, afraid to open your eyes but terrified to look away too, because you don’t want to miss anything. Highly recommended.

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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.