Storberry by Dan Padavona
This was the debut novel for Dan Padavona. That’s irritating, because you’d never know it. The review here is simple: the Kindle price is low, and this is a good-sized novel on par with Salem’s Lot. Go get some.
The setting is mid-1980s small town Virginia, there is a wide cast of characters, the vampires are smart and scary, the action is wicked quick once it gets going, and you should stop reading this and go buy and read the dang book and save time.
Or not, so I will keep typing.
There are some amazing ideas and sequences in this sucker (hah, sucker, because it’s about vampires and… nevermind). It’s not a spoiler to say that the forest is a malignant character. And that said forest is so dark, so evil, that you could imagine a vampire would be capable of moving around, if it wanted to, even in the daytime… This forest is overrunning and reclaiming “lost” ground, as evil and empires tend to do. The entire “evil forest” concept, by itself, breathes immense tension and scares into a book that is filled with both.
Second on the scares list is a natural event I will not say more about, except to note that (given it is the mid-1980s) the event does exactly what it needs to do, which is to isolate a small town for a period of time sufficient to create a microcosm and open prison. The relationship of the forest and this natural event to some of the early vampire lore out there is very well done, and shows a depth of research and creativity rarely seen in a genre book.
Which is why this bumps over the “horror” hill and makes it simply a book, and a very fine one.
Okay, to a few minor complaints. While this does not read like a teenager’s debut novel, at times there are grammatical and otherwise clumsy moments. These stick-out the worse because, for the most part, the writing is exceptional—it feels like a greater sin to disrupt those beautiful moments, in other words. This book is scary, and anyone who reads a lot of horror knows the vast majority simply isn’t. Scary is tough. Quality is tough. Humor (of which there is not too much here) is tough. Once any of these things are achieved, it’s a pity when just one typo or clumsy sentence yanks the reader out of total immersion.
Beyond that quibble on a few phrases that could be binned, however, a wide cast of characters is very well-drawn and given breadth of motivation, arc, backstory, gender, and overall, sits right up there with the big names and other big books; again, Salem’s Lot comes to mind.
There are some convenient moments and “take that!” deaths, but overall, the juggling of the cast is exceptional… and not every encounter works out as one might expect (which is absolutely fantastic).
A few encounters are cookie-cutter, however, and the ending felt somehow rushed, as though a few more chapters would have been welcome to more fully explore the final frames. Or, maybe—because this is true—it’s just a bittersweet thing to finish this remarkable vampire story that ranks among the best of the breed.
Truly, one of the top “straight-up” vampire books ever set to paper, this should be on your shelf, minor issues aside. Did I mention it’s actually tight and scary? That some of your darlings die?