Out Behind the Barn by John Boden and Chad Lutzke

9

Overall

9.0/10

Pros

  • Dread.
  • Style.
  • Substance.

Cons

  • Familiar core plot.

This is a fantastic read: quick, horrible, linear, and tense.

There is a book-sized build-up that, I felt, was inexorable and wonderful… if slightly predictable.  Perhaps this is because the plot draws from a number of sources, but none more so than Frankenstein (that said, the fundamental plot of Mary Shelley’s work serves as only very basic inspiration, and this is, by no means, a simple retelling of that work).

There you are: no further complaints, if those were complaints.  It would be nice to go on and on about the fantastic things that remain, but some things are too good to spoil.

What I can say is that the writing and voice are superbly literate and believable.  For reasons that eventually become clear, the main characters either struggle with speech or are “regional” in their dialect, and as there is not a single misstep in that process, that’s a laudable achievement for the authors. 

There may—may—have been once or twice where a “visible” author hand-off occurs, but had I not seen two authors on the cover, I would never have guessed two writers were involved.  Another star there! 

As a coming-of-age tale where the “usual” is slanted heavily by virtue of the core plot, this collaboration works remarkably well.  As an exploration of life, of spiraling time, of repetition and of loss and love, of death and acceptance, this succeeds as well as any contemporary book you can find. 

A final note: this is quite short, but it doesn’t feel short.  At all.  Many chapters read like flash fiction or a one-and-done vignette, but the flow is perfect, and each page benefits from what came before, with tight prose impacting with the force of poetry… or perhaps a hammer to the skull.

 

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