Book Review – Land of Bones by Glenn Rolfe


I’ve recently been diagnosed with a case of Glenn Rolfe Fever. I wouldn’t say ‘suffering with’ because that would indicate it’s not been an enjoyable experience. I devoured his short novel, Becoming, and now I’m here again with a review of his collection, Land of Bones.

I will start by saying I really liked Becoming, but I bloody loved Land of Bones.

The introduction to this collection spoke of the sense of loss within these stories. And yes this is true but not in the way that I was initially imagining. See, although the characters in here have all suffered/are suffering from loss, this is merely a backdrop to horrific themes and situations created within. I thought it would be emotion-sapping, and it was, but this collection was also just downright creepy.

There are scares, gore, ghosts, monsters; basically everything that you’d look for in horror stories.

Things kick off with the title track, The Land of Bones, a short vignette intro which sets the tone perfectly for what is about to come.

Ghosts of Spear Corner is the tale of an abandoned old house in a small town. The place has secrets and all of the locals know to leave the place well alone. There are rumours of the house being haunted. But two kids decide to find out for themselves. Oh yes, they find out the secrets all right, but wish that they hadn’t. Things had got off to a great start.

Simon is a worm, but not entirely. Actually he’s a bit of a nasty bastard, oh yeah, and a monster. This flash piece was bang, to the point. There was no slow burn to the ending, it emerged and slapped me in the face before the horrors even had a chance to ingrain themselves. This one was really great.

Things take a vampiric twist in Not Kansas Anymore. After a number of locals have been murdered, the town puts in place a curfew. Not that it has any effect. But a bizarre twist of fate if ever there was one brings this story to a satisfying conclusion. It seems not every type of blood is tasty to vampires.

Fire is the short tale of family desperation. When a raging fire sweeps the country people do what they have to do. It’s all about survival, baby.

One thing I admire in a story is when the protagonist is out to do no-good, yet we’re still cheering them on along the way. This is exactly what happens in Welcome to Paradise. A woman picks up a guy in a bar with one thing in mind; killing him. OK, two things. She takes him to her motel and starts with her sexy-time moves, as she’s done this plenty of times. But on this occasion things go a little differently. She never expected this, she really didn’t.

Next up was Wish. After an argument, a man is dumped by his lady and without the help and support of his friends, he’s left to wallow in his own destructive and depressive thoughts. He just wishes things were different. When the harrowing nightmares arrive he really wishes he hadn’t wished for anything. But of course, it’s too late. Be careful what you wish for, I think they say.

The over-riding message I got from Avenging Kitten, is don’t fuck with a man who’s lost his kitten. The title says it all really, when the kitten goes missing, things take a vengeancey-type turn. There ain’t nothin’ gonna stop him.

Charley Sings the World Away was another flash piece. The end of the world is nigh, but a dad does his best to ignore this impending doom, and instead concentrates on the wishes of his family. He returns home with a present for his daughter. When bad stuff is afoot, kids are blissfully ignorant. This is something to be admired.

A grieving father is desperate to have his son back. When a mysterious stranger, The Fixer, offers him some salvation it seems to be too good to be true. But as was said earlier, be careful with those wishes. A price always has to be paid, and it’s usually not a ‘once in a lifetime special offer’, not when lives are at stake. The ending to this one was great, and is a contender for my favourite story here.

Named after the great Alice In Chains song, The Rooster is the story of a man’s brother dying of cancer. His memories of their lives are comforting but the real horror here is how realistic all this is. A very emotional tale.

And then all of a sudden I found a great little novella tucked away inside. Too Much of a Dead Thing is a kind of zombie type story, although not strictly. I do enjoy post-apocalyptic stories but find they need to be strong on character to work. Well, this one was. Coupling sympathy with action and gore, this one ticked all the right boxes. There was also a ‘no way’ moment that I didn’t see coming, well not entirely anyway. Yeah, this was a nice twist on the genre.

Woods are creepy, especially at night. That’s a given. Little Bunny is the story of a small rabbit who entices a girl into said woods. These trees are the home of a dead child killer too, apparently. Her sister is in there also. But she committed suicide, right? This story was up there with The Fixer as my favourites, it definitely put the chills down me.

The closing story is Death Lights, where a medium sets to take on malevolent spirits in an old farmhouse. But the spirits seem to know him and his desperate memories and seek to manipulate him with them. A chilling closer to a great collection.

So you can probably tell, I loved this book. Horror tinged with sadness is not a pairing I’d automatically plump for, but I’m glad I did. It’s five stars all round!

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