Merrimon Book Reviews

Farmer walking in dust storm . 1936 photograph by  Arthur Rothstein, Farm Security Adminstration

Tenantless farm in the texas panhandle, 1938
Dorthea Lange for the Farm Security Administration

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Mr. Shivers
Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett
by Robert Jackson Bennett

After the death of his daughter, Marcus Connelly takes to the railroad, searching out the killer, a scarred hobo known in some circles as Mr. Shivers.  He joins forces with another group of men, all determined to capture the killer.  As they traverse the landscape of the country, a landscape now devastated by poverty and dust storms, the group's dynamics change.  As Connelly grows closer and closer to the trail, his thirst for revenge takes over.  Can he ever go back home again?  Not even he expects the shocking truth at the end of his journey.

With its mix of horror, historical fiction and fantasy, MR. SHIVERS is a refreshing change of pace for readers craving something new that does not adhere to the paradigms of any one genre.  If you are looking for a work of historical fiction that details the history of this time period, look elsewhere.  If on the other hand, you enjoy horror and fantasy but also crave something new, the historical context of MR. SHIVERS adds an eerie atmosphere.  Robert Jackson Bennett's prose is at its best as he describes the wasteland of the landscape, an external landscape that resonates with the internal landscape within Connelly.  The author's look into the soul of the country and the man haunts with its poetic beauty of the wasteland imagery.  MR. SHIVERS is not a novel for the faint-hearted although the level of gore is not as extreme as one sees in many new horror releases.  The scene of the pig slaughter makes a reader recoil, and yet at the same time, the juxtaposition of this scene next to others, gives the reader a chilling look into killing and death, a major theme within the novel.   Each chapter is marked with a symbol.  At first several look like astrological signs but as one reads, the mysteries of the signs increase as they do not belong to any set of known languages or symbol sets.  Robert Jackson Bennett reveals the answers at just the right chilling moment.  The ending is one the reader expects, at least to some degree, and yet even so, the author has a little twist in store as one contemplates its chilling relevance to the future.

Although classified as horror, MR. SHIVERS reaches beyond the horror audience with his poetic yet disturbing look into a haunted landscape.  MR. SHIVERS is a novel that might appeal to historical fiction and sci-fi/fantasy readers like myself who do not particularly consider themselves horror fans, a least not for much of current horror, and still yet have a taste for darker tales with imaginative twists.  Robert Jackson Bennett's blend of genres is simply refreshing.  The ending feels a it rushed as action takes precedence over description.  I would have enjoyed this novel even more if the author had incorporated his gift for haunting description more in the final actions scenes.  Robert Jackson Bennett is most definitely a debut author who has captured the imagination of this reader.  I anxiously await his next release.

Orbit (January 15, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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