Monday, November 11, 2019

Starve Acre

Starve AcreStarve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: This is a review of the The Eden Book Society edition, released under the pseudonymn Jonathan Buckley.

"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."

As I made my way through Starve Acre, I could not help but notice the strong similarities between the initial conceit and that of the movie Wake Wood, a movie I greatly enjoyed. But the copyright on this edition read 1972, claiming that the book was originally published in that year and re-released by a reincarnated Eden Book Society. I thought, "Wow, the makers of Wake Wood must have ripped off this obscure book"! Silly me. Only when I saw "the 1972 Subscribers" and recognized friend's names and twitter handles in the list did I realize that I had been duped. No, it appears, the author of this book ripped off Wake Wood, at least in a couple of key elements: 1) The death of a couple's child is the central driving factor of the narrative and, 2) the locals know something that the new move-ins do not, and they are all acting rather strangely.

After that, the plot, thankfully, becomes more original. I won't spoil it for you, as there are plenty of spoilers that could give it away, but the real power in the book shows in the denouement, not in the body of the story, really. The beginning of the end of the book quite took me by surprise, but while making my way through the ending I thought "no, this couldn't have ended any other way". It was then that I really saw the brilliant confluence of the writing, seemingly disparate narrative threads coming together seamlessly, like an atonal symphony (albeit a simple one) that comes together in an inevitable crescendo. But after the action of what one would consider the end (on many different levels), the after-action sequence is what shocked me. Downright shocked me, sending those proverbial chills up my spine. It was a tight, sudden knife twist, after I had already been stabbed, unexpected, and elevating the horror to another level.

Knowing now that the book was written by Andrew Michael Hurley, and having heard from a lot of people that I "ought" to read Hurley (that "ought" being something that, frankly, makes me bristle a bit), I can see why people like his writing style. It flows very well (this was a very quick read) and the characters are strong. The wicked ending after the ending almost makes up for what I take to be the blatant theft of ideas from Wake Wood. I will likely read Hurley (I hear The Loney is not to be missed), but I won't be reading the Hurley version of the book, newly released. So, feel free to send spoilers my way. But, keep it on the down-low. We don't want to dig more creepy things out of the ground, do we?

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  1. Again, this is off-topic, but awhile ago I asked you if you knew of a certain book:

    Oddly enough, I think I found it. Nina Allan has a new novel coming out, and I was looking through her back catalog when I saw something called "The Race". Based on the 2014 cover and the description, this is *probably* the book I was thinking of. (Or if not, it's probably the closest I'll come to finding whatever it was again!)

    1. Sorry I didn't get to that question, Anne. Have you taken a look on Goodreads to see if any reviews there confirm this? That's my go-to place to find old, forgotten books. There are lots of erudite readers there!