Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: BLOOD RIVER DOWN by Charles L. Grant (as Lionel Fenn) - *** out of four

As a huge fan of writer Charles L. Grant, but not a huge fan of fantasy, I opened my copy of Blood River Down with trepidation, fearing that this would be the one bum book that would tarnish my unblemished memory of Grant as a writer who just doesn't miss (which, in itself, is a pretty stupid notion, since there has not been a writer in history who never wrote a bad book. But I digress).

The first few chapters of Blood River Down took some heavy lifting on my part, as it was hard for me to get into the spirit and tone of the book. The goofy sense of humor and slow pace took me by surprise, since my idea of a Charles L. Grant book was shaped by such horror classics as The Orchard and the Black Oak series, solid horror/thrillers written in mesmerizing prose and filled to the brim with deliciously creepy atmospherics. Blood River Down is something entirely different.

It tells the story of Gideon Sunday, a retired football player down on his luck, who spends his days drinking, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the phone to ring, and trying to overcome his memories of his much beloved but recently departed sister. Then, suddenly, a magical door materializes in his pantry, which leads him into another world full of warriors and deadly creatures, and towards a quest to find a very special duck that can save or destroy the world.

What happens next is a series of mostly hit, and sometimes miss, series of incidents, adventures, and battles, some of which are hilarious, most of which are fun, and a few of which are downright boring. But it is obvious that Grant is having tons of fun with his tale and characters, delivering an array of puns, lame jokes, and some laugh-out-loud one-liners. And by the end of the book, I found myself smiling and feeling modestly rewarded for sticking with Gideon and company till the end (or the beginning, since this is the first part of a trilogy) of their quest.

For newcomers to Grant's work this is not the best place to start, as it lacks his mastery of atmosphere and his silky smooth prose, which is understandable, since Grant here is writing outside of the horror genre, the field he excelled at and in which he produced some of the most haunting stories ever put to paper. But if you are a die-hard fan like myself, or looking for an easy, fun fantasy read, then I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2017

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