The Beast House

February 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

beastThe Beast House by Richard Laymon

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After my review of Beware!, one of my reading buddies mentioned that I must be a glutton for punishment, since I haven’t rated any of Laymon’s books above two stars so far. We’ll have to see just how much of a glutton I am, but The Beast House isn’t breaking any trends at this point, though I do see that the books are improving. A little bit at a time. You know, at about the same rate as turning an aircraft carrier in open water.

The Beast House is a sequel of sorts to The Cellar, Laymon’s first book. The story is pretty similar, since The Cellar didn’t end with anything resolved (which, now that I think about it, makes the book even more pointless), but this time around Laymon gives us an origin for the beast in the house. Though it is, frankly, pretty stupid. I get the feeling that Laymon got an idea for a book and just went with it, without asking himself how silly or ridiculous it was.

One of the problems with writing a sequel that doesn’t directly follow the same story is the amount of revisiting old territory that’s necessary to get new readers up to speed. The Beast House can stand alone, as can The Cellar, since the focuses of the two stories are different, but we retread a lot of the same details, and a lot of tension is removed from the start of the story, since we already know the secret behind the house. On the plus side, as we’re treated to another entire spiel from the tour guide through the house itself while knowing the real story, we can see how much bullshit it really is.

The story still touches on the same theme as seen in The Cellar, asking which is the bigger monster — the unknown thing that lives in the shadows and kills without remorse, or the people who will exploit such a thing. This time around, Laymon gives us a character whose motivations are murky, though no less despicable, which is saying something, since his human monster in the previous novel was a child rapist. I have no problems with stories that touch on that theme (what would 28 Days Later be without it?), but Laymon lacks subtlety in getting that message across.

And yes, there’s still a ridiculous amount of sex in the book. Laymon makes one of the central characters a proudly promiscuous woman, which isn’t a problem, save for the fact that, true to slasher mythos, she’s one of the first to get killed. Also, the worst thing that Laymon can have happen to his female characters is for them to get raped. I imagine this is true for women in real life, too, but I wonder why Laymon doesn’t go outside of that device. It makes the stories feel repetitive, at the very least. It all reminds me why I write a lot about outgrowing horror; books like this make me realize the genre is mostly for teenage boys. Or adults with arrested development.

The crazy thing is that I’m not quite willing to give up on my Laymon project, at least not yet. I’m only a few books away from re-reading Midnight’s Lair, a book that I thought was pretty good when I first read it, and I’m curious to see how well it holds up. And then there’s The Traveling Vampire Show, which I’ve heard from two different people is actually a decent read, which is way down the chronology of Laymon’s works. So I’m going to stick with it for a little while longer at least.

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