Golden takes words and blows the chill down your spine.
Author: Christopher Golden
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers
Publication: January 25, 2022
Jacket design by Johnathan Bush
Jacket art: snowy landscape © merc67/Getty Images ; snow © Liyao Xie/Getty Images
Author photographer: (Courtesy) Shivohn Kacy Fleming
Read from the ever teetering TBR list ~
Seriously, folks, I've always wanted to visit Siberia. Experience first hand the grueling frigid temps and get a taste into an austere, I would believe, lifestyle. Catch a glimpse of some wildlife and enjoy some local cuisine. Truly be in Siberia. To visit, I repeat.
Well, my latest adventure ~
As a winter storm was brewing and temperatures dropping, then the impact of snow being so dense my hometown was mentioned on the national news (which made me raise an eyebrow) I cracked open a tale quite appropriate to my actual settings.
New York Times best-selling author Christopher Golden (Ararat 2017) introduced me to a couple of characters by the names of Felix Teigland and Jack 'John' Prentiss and we all took off to Siberia. Since Mr. Golden already knew how this tale would end, it was only Felix, Jack, and I who took off. To Kolyma Highway (R504), stretching from Magadan to Yakutsk.
A highway constructed by prisoners of Stalin's gulags. As they worked themselves to death, their dead bodies were deposited where they dropped and helped form Kolyma Highway. The Road of Bones to be more precise.
The reason being for this trek, (besides me always wanting to visit Siberia) Teigland is a reality TV documentarian and he started to believe his future was looking a bit bleak. He needed something to cement his future paychecks. Covering the Road of Bones and its history with Stalin might be the hitch he'll need to have his company run for years on the networks. He owed people, Prentiss owed Teig, and I owe myself a great read.
I climbed to my mental loft and peered below, as I often do during a read, and watched Teig and Prentiss get on their way to pick up their guide, Kaskil. Their guide is from the northern Yakut tribe, known as reindeer herders who will guide them to ... the coldest place on Earth... to the town of Akhust.
Along the way, Teig and Prentiss listened to local legends and ghost stories. Folks, the three of them were drawn with such personalities, I couldn't help but grin through their ordeals? with each other. Another, is Nari, a woman they rescued from the roadside. Now she is a character all on her own.
Alright folks, when they get to Akhust, they find the town empty of life, save one catatonic nine-year-old girl, Una, ― in the library. (Love how authors plug libraries) The way Golden explained why they looked in the library, was the most obvious. It would be exactly what I would have done. As empty as the town was, the town wasn't actually void of all life. Shadows that became wolves with hunger seemed to be abundant. Not your ordinary pack of wolves, rather, they were other wolves' mentors, I might want to say. And these damn things? they were persistent as hell.
And their local Parnee.
High tail it out of there? Teig and his entourage do. Not without casualties and close calls and Holy Shits! and running into more characters that added flavor to this mix of being chased by ... what? They're not from this world, or, is this real? And, where is everybody!?
Is the answer secretly hidden in this nine-year-old?
Folks, the setting and the atmosphere are tense. The scenes of how cold it is there were graphic and picture-perfect. The handful of characters were drawn vividly appreciative. Each had their own persona and beliefs and attitudes. Some attitudes were shown more than others which gave the story more of a realism feel. Teig and Prentiss show their 'brotherly' relationship to each other just as I would see in others around me. The writing made me feel I was with them throughout their ordeals. Loved how all the characters grew with their time together.
As they were running into more characters, one reminded me of some 1960'ish Flower Child by the name of Ludmilla. This character was a character. She would go out onto the highway and pray for the lost souls that made up the Road of Bones. She has done it for years. "Bless you all," she intoned. "Cast off the deeds of life that bind you here. The Lord awaits."
In this tale, Teig runs into people alongside this highway where you could find yourself freezing to death if you don't have enough gas in your vehicle and yet his destination, not a soul. (I enjoyed the juxtaposition of people on the highway and no one there in town. Life is a highway ~) All Teig wanted at the moment was to get everyone to safety. They were being pursued by beasts that were smarter and faster than normal wolves he is aware of. He was also being pursued by a memory from earlier in life.
Throughout the book, you're gonna be cold. There's no room for doubt folks. You'll be wrapping yourself with your throw, and literally, you will be glued to the pages. Golden takes words and blows the chill down your spine. This story held me pretty damn good and I did enjoy freezing my ass off with Teig, Prentiss, Nari, and Una and the others, and those ... shadows, wolves, spirits, and ~
I scratched my elbow on a couple things, for those of you that have read it:
~ There was something that popped out at me on page 195, how did Prentiss aim that rifle?
~ Una's name was mentioned earlier by Nari, so in the end?
~ The reason for the pissed-off monsters was vague to me
But you know, all destinies have their own fate. The ending to this story wrapped up nicely for a few and was quite vicious for others. After reflecting back, it seemed as if every character in this tale had something to protect in the end, even dignity.
I really did enjoy the hell out of this one, folks. I was after sentences that hit me and leave me glued to the pages. This was eerie and horrifically satisfying. Sentence after sentence. It delivered what I was looking for and somewhere somehow a part of me is still in Siberia freezing my ass off. I am not wondering why,
I have read some of Golden's short stories that have appeared in such anthologies as One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington by Kenneth W. Cain, Stephen King, +8 more ~ 2020 and an extreme horror short story along with the great author James A. Moore titled Bloodstained Oz 2006 and I'm telling you if you have not read any of Golden's works you're missing out in being in the element with Christopher. You're missing out.
Folks, Christopher Golden's writing is quite smooth in making you slip into a few hours into horror and making you turn the page, for example in this read,
She looked to Teig like something out of a dream. In his imagination, he could still see the cherry hue of her hair, but in the dark, it turned black. Nari swept across the snow in a monochrome wave, all black, color leached from the world. Only her face seemed to reflect any light, a pale gleam punctuated by the pinpoint terror in her eyes.
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I highly do
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CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the New York Times bestselling and Bram Stoker award-winning author of Ararat, Snowblind, Dead Ringers, and Of Saints and Shadows, among many other novels.
With Mike Mignola, he is the co-creator of two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective. Golden is also the editor of such anthologies as Seize the Night, The New Dead, and Dark Cities, and the co-host of the popular podcast "Three Guys with Beards." He lives in Massachusetts.
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