"Behemoth" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Bloodshot Books
Written by H.P. Newquist
2019, 362 pages, Fiction
Released on 24th October, 2019
Behemoth has a decent opening sequence and goes rapidly downhill from that moment on, with there being very little worth recommending in this novel.
Three teenage boys are bored and are out fooling around in their car and decide to drive from Ashford to the much smaller village of Morris. Upon arrival the boys find the road which leads back to the main highway is inaccessible. Having had a few drinks, they take a shortcut over a grass verge they think will get them back on track. Instead, they crash violently into a big stone slab, possibly a gravestone or marker, and not long later are dead. The deaths are reported in the local media as a tragic car accident, after which the bodies were savaged by wild animals. In the next few pages, Billy McGrath is murdered by the creature, which is obviously the ‘Behemoth’ of the title. This all happens by the 5% mark on the Kindle.
This novel lacks even the most basic form of suspense. The monster is revealed so early in the story, there is zero effort to build atmosphere, pacing, develop setting or introduce characters. Instead we are presented with a creature which is a walking cliché, inadequately described, and would not put the frighteners on anybody. By way of comparison with a novel which does terrify, the creature which stalks the Swedish forest in Adam Nevill’s The Ritual does not appear until halfway, but the threat ominously hangs over the whole story and the descriptions and level of detail are hair-raising. Behemoth does the exact opposite with its sheer level of blandness; threat and fear are core ingredients to the success of a horror novel, but are entirely absent in this effort.
The lack of suspense is also apparent in non-creature scenes, and on a couple of occasions the author seems to be going out of his way to try and kill it entirely. For example, the main character Robert Garrahan, notices that the teenage girl who he bought gas from last time he visited Morris is not working the pumps; he thinks this is suspicious, especially as the replacement gas attendant will not answer his questions. Instead of letting this story permeate and allowing the reader to develop their own conclusions, it is spelt out in the very next paragraph that something dodgy has happened, as the mother of the teenager is crying in her house. It is revealed in such an obvious manner, it feels like the author is providing spoilers to his own novel.
The story is presented in a very clunky third-person narrative which jumps around from character to character, all of which are put across in an almost identical way. And once in the second half, it starts to involve the residents of Morris. I struggled to separate them and cared little about any of them as they were bumped off. Even the main character, the local reporter who begins to start snooping into the spate of murders, is a cardboard cut-out.
The plot of Behemoth revolves around five murders and how Robert Garrahan finds himself stuck in the middle after he meets gas attendant Abby Donahue and her father, who later disappears. The story involving the village, its inhabitants and connections to the creature is so clunky, weak and repetitivem I struggled to remain engaged with the action. Once again, everything is so telegraphed, it feels like the third-person narrative is creating a barrier between the reader and the story, presenting us with an unnecessary extra layer which kills all potential atmosphere. I like stories about dodgy American small towns, but when Garrahan buys gas and all these people immediately come out of their houses to watch the transaction, it is astonishingly obvious and lacks any kind of subtlety. For a successful example of how to develop this type of small-town ‘fear’, check out Robert McCammon’s Bethany’s Sin, where clues are dropped with the deftness of touch rather than stating the glaringly obvious.
Rarely have I read a novel with so many unnecessary Bible quotations, it feels like the reader is being bombarded with them and it became irritating. Was the beast from Heaven, Hell or somewhere else? In the end I was beyond caring, but more significant than my opinion of the Bible verses is the fact that the backstory unconvincingly connects to the creature. You can throw in as many Bible quotations as you like, but I still need to believe in what has been created. I enjoy novels with huge vicious monsters. I know they are not real, but within the context of the story they have to be, so and the creature in Behemoth is so unoriginal, it is one of the weakest parts the novel. Hunter Shea is a good example of an author who regularly comes up with ridiculous creatures, but something about his work both clicks and convinces. His most recent novel Slash is a fine example, and his forthcoming release Misfits is another. The monsters in Shea’s stories are dumb, but they are complemented by convincing characters, Behemoth is not.
The characters are indistinguishable from each other and if Robert Garrahan is supposed to be a hero of some sort, he falls well short, and there is nothing especially likable about him. The girl Abby Donahue and her mother spend most of the novel in tears and the bad guys from Morris are totally ineffective. This little village of Morris should have been creepy, I should have been able to visualise its narrow streets and lanes. Instead, descriptions are minimal and alternatively we have a style of narration which tells a story in as bland a way as possible. It lacks characters for the reader to root for and the narrative style merges them all together into one undistinguishable monotone voice. At 362 pages and with well over 100 very short and unnecessarily time-coded chapters, it is also incredibly long. If it had been cut to around 250-pages, perhaps something might have been salvageable.
There are so many amazing horror novels on the market I would suggest you check out other reviews on Horror DNA if you’re on the lookout for new reading material, as you will be wasting your time and money on Behemoth.
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