The Orchard

June 18, 2015 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

The OrchardThe Orchard by Charles L. Grant

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Like Nightmare Seasons, this book is a collection of loosely connected novellas, bookended by a vignette of sorts that is intended to be Grant himself, learning more of the history of Oxrun Station.  And like most collections of shorter works, there are some good stories, and some bad ones.  The Orchard is split almost in half between the two.

The first novella, My Mary’s Asleep, is pretty terrible.  It features an unsympathetic protagonist who may not be the source of the horror in the story, but is still pathetic enough to be unlikable.  That Grant tries to pull in a “fat man’s revenge” theme into it makes the story that much less interesting.  It could be said that the story establishes the orchard as the source of the supernatural for this collection, but that was already done in the prologue.  Besides, what, exactly, was the supernatural element here?  I felt more lost than anything else in this story.

I See Her Sweet and Fair, the second novella, had a good build-up, but the payoff for it was ridiculous.  It’s worth reading just to see how well Grant can create tension and keep you guessing, but goddamn if the ending didn’t just make me laugh.  This is horror, folks, not some kids’ story, and if your big reveal just makes the reader laugh, then you’re not doing it right.

It wasn’t until the third novella, The Last and Dreadful Hour, that things started to show more promise.  Here, Grant’s abilities shine through, as he tells a slow, fateful story of people confined in a theater and slowly going missing in the dark.  And unlike the previous story, this one has a conclusion that makes perfect sense without being obvious.

Screaming, in the Dark, was totally lost on me.  It’s about a guy in a hospital, possibly going crazy, but there are a lot of unanswered questions relating to the story to have a firm grasp of what the story was supposed to be about.  I mean, I have a sense of the events, but I couldn’t tell you what they were supposed to mean.

I’m not sure if the entire collection is worth reading, but the middle two stories are both winners, even if the first of the two has a ridiculous ending.  I’m not sure if the shorter form works for or against Grant here, but either way, there are a couple of good, atmospheric horror stories here, bookended by a couple of terrible ones.

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