Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Golden: The Boys Are Back in Town—Horror at a High School Reunion


Like Rod Serling. Stephen Donaldson. L. Frank Baum crossed with Stephen King. Reviewers have struggled to place Christopher Golden's work into a specific niche of the horror genre, but previous books have defied such placement. The Boys Are Back in Town is no different.

Oh, it begins typically enough, B-movie script expectable. Will James is a world-weary tabloid reporter, collecting yet another vampire story before he heads back to the home town for a tenth-year high-school reunion. He's made plans to meet with all his old friends while back home, exchanging eMails and setting up dinner plans. Aside from Mike Lebo, he hasn't seen most of them since high school.

But then he arrives for the reunion, and his innocent inquiries after Mike are met with shocked stares. Everyone else remembers Mike Lebo's death during their senior year.

As Will examines his memories, a darker history than he recalled before the reunion begins to come clear. There's a reason he's not an award-winning journalist. There's a reason Will alone remembers Mike Lebo alive after graduation. And there's a sinister reason Mike eMailed him before the reunion.

It's tied up with black magic the high-school friends practiced ten years ago. And Will finds his world changing around him as his memories shift. He must travel back in time to undo the disastrous events that have set an entire high school class onto a twisted path.

Golden writes dialogue in a very "new age" style, with the choppy rhythm of instant messaging, eMail and voice mail. Yet he uses a descriptive technique straight out of Dashiel Hammett: objective, blunt and unemotional. The combination works to create a modern atmosphere for some very creepy action.

The author lightly explores the way our destinies are determined by choices we make, and how our identity is tied up with our memories. But like most horror novels, the message is superficial. Golden's work succeeds as an enjoyable chiller, an intriguing mystery, a roller-coaster workout for the adrenal glands. If you're not looking for anything deep and lasting, this is an excellent choice.


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