The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon
Review by David Stoit
My experience with Horror is limited, mostly I read Fantasy and I bought this book with the idea in mind to try some new fantasy. Something laid-back to read, which horror doesn’t really seem to aim for in my opinion. Well, all in all, it seemed a waste to not even try it so I reluctantly started reading.
I got surprised and not badly so. To be honest, this is the kind of horror I could really learn to appreciate and perhaps love as I do with Fantasy.
The story starts slightly oddly in the dreadfully bleak environment of the Concrete Grove. Slightly odd changes quickly into alien, mysterious and slightly horrifying and within a couple of pages I was hooked.
McMahon has shown an excellent display of writing skill in this story, in which the most intriguing parts I’ll try to explain. Firstly the characters. McMahon delves deep into the minds and lives of the three main characters, giving a depth and an emotional involvement which is the carrier of this story. You really pity the characters because none are having a life you’d want anyone to have.
Secondly the depressing rundown area in which the story takes place plays a major role. This seemingly fictional place is a dread in itself and that’s without the growing mysteriousness. At the end the place really evolves into an entity itself.
The third is perhaps the most important of the three. When you start this story you just want to read it through. McMahon has a talent for capturing your mind, bombarding it with some pretty horrible stuff which tend to linger in your head for some time. The whole sphere of despair, anger and sorrow tends to hook you in a strangely firm but not wholly unpleasant kind of way.
Another thing that really adds to the story is the less obvious dominant plot. Although some really sick and disturbing things happen, the plot is interesting and surprising enough to keep the story going. All the while giving the impression of the fluid reality of life. Things happen without the obvious coming and going of events.
All in all, this book is an excellent read which tends to give you at least a couple of disturbed dreams. Perhaps it is the emotional involvement, perhaps it are the unanswered questions? Perhaps it is the battle between the horror and the fantasy aspect of this story in which two worlds, one painfully realistic and one horrifying fictive slowly merge into a constantly unpredictable mesh. This unstable environment which forces you to pay real attention otherwise threatening you to miss something. Perhaps it is in just the last, personal couple of pages in this book. Either way, I will remember Gary McMahon and will certainly look out for more of his work.
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