By Robert Dunbar
Published by Uninvited Books, 2012
Robert Dunbar is easily one of the best dark fiction writers around and he just keeps getting better and better. From his fairly straight horror novels The Pines and The Shore, he moved up a gear with the fabulous Martyrs and Monsters. His last novel Willy was a tour de force of characterisation whose portrayal of disaffected youth was up there with the classics like Catcher In The Rye. Praise indeed and this presents something of a problem for Mr Dunbar, how on earth do you follow that…here is the answer.
Wood tells the tale of two characters out of place in society. Rosaria is institutionalised in a juvenile facility but manages to escape one evening on a desperate quest to find her Grandmother. Her search brings her into contact with the suicidal Dick Wood, a man who’s only friend is his apparently deranged elderly neighbour Queenie who often regales him with tales of monsters. But when Rosaria is chased by something and seeks refuge in Dick’s house he realises that maybe there is something nasty out there after all.
And what a something it is, a creature born of the night and the wild country “the terrain of all the darkest fairytales, the landscape of nightmares” a thing of pure evil has evolved to counter the selfishness of humanity. All of which makes it somewhat ironic that its first encounters are with Rosaria and Dick two people very much on the outskirts of humanity.
This short novella certainly packs a lot into 70 odd pages. The characters (as always from Robert Dunbar) are beautifully realised, strong and individual, there are no stereotypes here. The monster reeks of environmental concerns, the Gaia hypotheses written in blood and is reminiscent of Joseph D’lacey’s Garbage Man. There is also enough action, pathos and beautiful writing to fill most full sized novels. It’s not perfect, I have issues with anthropomorphic characters unless they happen to be Wile E. Coyote so the sequence where we see the world through the eyes of a cat didn’t quite work for me. The story is also unfinished and to be honest having built up an affinity with the characters I want to carry on that journey, so get writing Mr Dunbar!
Quibbles aside though this is another excellent work from Robert Dunbar, he is an extremely powerful writer who manages to extract fantastic depth from his characters giving his work an originality and freshness that is very welcome in the gore filled horror world.
Rating 4 out of 5