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Crota Owl Goingback New Main

"Crota" Book Review

Written by Chris Deal

Published by Signet

crota owl goingback large

Written by Owl Goingback
1996, 320 pages, Fiction
Released on December 1st, 1998


Crota appears to be a very by-the-numbers sort of creature-feature at first, what with the monster coming from the darkness and brutally murdering human and bovine alike. But there is a heart here, and not the one the titular beast scopes from the chest of its victims.

When first published in 1996, Owl Goingback’s Crota won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and came just short against Stephen King’s The Green Mile for best novel of the year. Goingback would go on to write several more novels, including 2019’s Coyote Rage, which also won him the Stoker for best novel. It was that point the Bram Stoker awards presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was also given that year to Thomas Ligotti.

Lean and gory, Crota harkens back to those old-school pulpy novels. There is little here not necessary. After a great introduction in which two characters are brutally murdered by the titular monster, we’re introduced to the actors who all have their roles to fill. The characters are definitely thin, but when it matters, they do the job.

Our protagonist is Sheriff Skip Harding. Yes, Skip. Husband to a wife who is there in the plot and a deaf son, he’s there to deal with the murders that suddenly start occurring in Hobb’s County. We get a good view of the processing of crime scenes, but very quickly we realize just how close Skip is to the story when the Crota attacks, leaving him alive but hospitalized. We then meet Jay Little Hawk, the local game warden who has found a deer carcass that just doesn’t make sense. Little Hawk is a medicine man who quickly learns what fate is falling over the town.

Crota reads like the kind of movie that would play Saturday afternoons on the Syfy Channel, which is to say simple but a lot of fun. What works best here is the Native American lore and mythology, which feels like we’re there taking part in the oral tradition.

The novel’s beats may be by-the-book pulp, but there is a lot, like the heart mentioned earlier, that makes this a great read, and the commentary this story provides gave me a lot to think about. For example, when thinking of modern knowledge of Native American culture and history for most that is limited by the textbooks read in elementary school, and what culture wrote those books? Further, rarely is racism explicitly touched on, but when it is the message is clear:

Their blood mingled – blood of a red man, blood of a white man – and joined together, became one. Brothers. The way it should be. The way it should always have been.

Division is a killer, and it’s when these two cultures come together that solutions are found, the knowledge of one ignored group used to save things for all.

This book comes at the end of a long year of reading for me. I made it a goal to read as many horror novels as I could this year, and as the year went on, I made it a further goal to read outside of my own perspective as much as possible. Where’s the fun in sticking to your own bubble? This may be three out of five stars, but I very much appreciated the chance to give this a read.


Overall: fourstars Cover
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