"They're Here" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Dancing Flame Books
Written by Jody Smith
2020, 180 pages, Fiction
Released on October 31st, 2020
From my years of reading James’ comic reviews, I’ve learned a lot of things for a non-comic reader. One is the fact that you never notice lettering unless it’s bad. I’d like to think opening sentences in books are along the same lines. They won’t necessarily make or break a book, but I have made plenty of determinations on whether or not I’d buy a book by the first paragraph. So when you have a great opening line, sometimes it’s indicative of things to come. They’re Here has a great opening line:
You don’t know you’re poor until someone else reflects that reality.
That sentence smacked me right in the face with its realism. I don’t know if author Jody Smith was poor growing up, but it would not surprise me one iota if he was. The accuracy of the opening immediately put me on Team Matt, the main character in this town of horrors. And not only is Matt poor, but his dad all but ignores him (except when he’s beating the shit out of him), and his mom has nothing to say to him but negative things. To make matters worse, his one-time friend disowns Matt once he finds out about his economic situation and makes him a pariah in school with his relentless teasing. It’s almost as if things can’t get worse. But, you know they do.
In the case of They’re Here, things get worse in the form of some people who’ve come to town to rebuild the recently-burned-down hospital. But, naturally, those people’s intentions aren’t so nice and the townsfolk slowly but surely start acting very weird. Remember how the infected in Invasion of the Body Snatchers act? It’s like that. And Matt and his new-found friends, the Ray brothers, know something dangerous is afoot, but no one believes them because they’re just kids. So they do what any kid in this situation would do, they decide to attack the issue head on. Things get bloody.
I love coming-of-age horror. It’s in my top three favorite subgenres, and Smith delivers a good one in They’re Here. He successfully gets you on the side of Matt, who has just been dealt a shitty hand in life, and makes you wince at every beating the boy receives. Matt does have wins though, but they’re few and far between. But when he does get a victory, you’re right there cheering him on.
If there’s anything that bothers me about They’re Here, it would be I wish there was more action with the antagonists. Smith does a rock solid job with the character development of Matt, but the book would benefit from more fights with the big bad(s) and less crap situations Matt gets into. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book from beginning to end, but the balance is a bit off. It’s like if you get pie à la mode with a huge piece of apple pie and a small scoop of ice cream. It’s still delicious, but you’d sacrifice some pie for more ice cream. That’s how I feel about They’re Here. I’d sacrifice some of Matt’s battles with his human bullies to have more action with the inhuman ones.
That said, though, once things start happening, they start happening. It’s as if Smith has the cruise control set on sixty and once you’re in a comfort zone, he presses the pedal down and you’re suddenly going a hundred with no idea how to stop the damn car. And that’s a-okay. The ride is exciting.
I also have to give a nod to Smith for his ending. You may wonder what the hell is going on with the reporter’s side-story, but rest assured it comes back in a big way.
Speaking of the ending, They’re Here is ripe for a sequel. And I’m here for it. Not only does Smith really get you to root for his protagonists, he also does not treat them with kid gloves. No one is safe. That’s my favorite kind of adventure.
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