“Winner of the Bram Stoker Award and named one of the 100 Best Novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly, Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge is a powerhouse thrill-ride with all the resonance of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.
Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror–and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy …” – Amazon
So it’s Halloween 1963 somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. The object of the book is a very simple game: The October Boy needs to make it from the field where he was created to an old church in the middle of town before midnight. It is the job of the teenage boys (between 16 and 19 years old) who live in the town to stop him. They call this the Run. The boys have been locked in their rooms for five days with no food. They’re tired, they’re starving, they’re a wee bit crazy and it is their job to stop the October Boy. Whomever stops the October Boy from making it to the church gets a one-way ticket out of the town and gets to feast on all of the candy stuffed within the October Boy.
Who or what is the October Boy? Hang on. I’m getting to that. The October Boy is a bizarre creation with tangled-up vines as a body and a giant jack-o-lantern as a head. He’s armed with a giant butcher knife as his only form of defense which makes up one of his hands. Strange, I know. Despite his vine-like body being covered in an old tattered shirt, he’s stuffed with candy. The bad news is if the October Boy can make it to the church by midnight, the town is plagued forever by a horrible blah blah blah.
“He’s smart enough to know that words don’t matter unless they’re walking the hard road that leads to the truth!”
Check out that cover art (minus all the shitty stickers on it). And before I go on, let me be the first to say that every time you put a sticker on the cover of a book, God kills a puppy so think about that, you jerks! So anywho, I saw the cover art and the word “harvest” and thought instantly, that’s going to be a November read for me. I had desperately wanted to finish another book on Halloween to end my October and did so with DARK HARVEST. I didn’t hate this book, but I’m not entirely sure I loved it or even liked it for that matter. At 176 pages in length, thankfully, you don’t have much time invested to make that determination.
This was the first book from Norman Partridge I’ve ever read and his writing style is very… unique. If you look at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you’ll see that the reviews for this book are all over the board. There’s just as many 1 and 2 star reviews as there are 4 and 5 star reviews. I’m going to go smack dab in the middle and give it 3 stars because in my opinion, the book was a solid 3. It was OK and in my opinion, that’s what a 3-star review of anything is… it’s OK.
Back to the writing style. It was all over the place. He intentionally seems to switch perspectives at any given point in time which, for me, was terribly distracting and almost impossible for me to focus. Some paragraphs are written in the 1st person… i.e., “I am walking through a field.” The next page, he switches to the 2nd person… i.e., “You are walking through a field.” And then moments later, he’s making you read from the 3rd person… “Mike is walking through a field.” I’m guessing that was intentional and if you ask me “Why?”, I’ll have to tell you what everyone else seemed to say and that’s basically – how in the fuck should I know? Needless to say, it’s very distracting. Some seemed to speculate that it was because of the fact that it’s technically a young adult (YA) fictional horror book, although, how that has any bearing on the perspective the author chooses to write from, I’m not entirely sure.
There is a lot going on in the 176 pages that make up this book with NO backstory or history at all. Why can’t anyone come and go as they please from this town? Why does it take killing a giant boy with a carved pumpkin for a head to leave this town? Can the adults leave? Who is starving these teenagers? Why aren’t they eating? What’s so special about this church we’re trying to defend? Why are these parents sending their poor kids to battle this gruesome creature? Why can’t they assist? Why are they sitting home on their fat asses shoveling candy in their mouth while little Jimmy is prepping for the fight of his life? Is the media aware of this circus? How long has this been happening? Who started this shenanigan? What’s gonna happen if the pumpkin boy makes it to the church? What horrible evil is this town going to face if he does ultimately make it?
Give me something for crying out loud! Throw me a fucking bone, Norm! I get it. I’m the reader and you want me to use my imagination to fill in the 37 blanks spinning around in my mind. That’s fine, but there’s too many blanks. Waaaaaaaaaaaay too many and I, for one, would have loved this backstory because let’s face it – a giant pumpkin boy armed with a butcher knife for a hand trying to get to a church before midnight is a story that sounds intriguing to me. But you can’t just plop me on Main Street in front of all the action and expect me to care where this story is headed. I needed and wanted more and I just never got it which left me unsatisfied like a pillowcase full of candy corn and stale Dubble Bubble on Halloween night.
I’m not going to donate this book or turn it in for store credit just yet. I’m going to pick it back up next Halloween and read it again. Now that I know what to expect, maybe I won’t be so distracted by the writing style the second time around. I’ll be honest. I don’t have a clue if I can even recommend this book. I say that in all honesty simply due to the equal number of 4 and 5 star reviews it received. Maybe you’ll love it and you’ll think I’m crazy? Maybe you’ll hate it more than I did and wonder how in the hell Scott managed to think this was OK? I finished the book. Like I stated, I didn’t hate it which is why I want to pick it back up again next October and give it another shot. I think the concept is as brilliant as the cover art. I’m just not positive it was executed very well. I mean, I know it wasn’t but I’ll let you be the judge, jury, and executioner of it.
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