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Goblin / Josh Malerman

Earthling Publications / October 2017
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno

It seems like only yesterday when reviewers and readers alike where raising a collective eyebrow in admiration of a new kid on the block named Josh Malerman. DSM has certainly sung the praises of both Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel, a pair of exemplary works of speculative fiction that accurately heralded a major genre talent. These previous novels checked off all the right boxes: original, moody, compelling, tightly-plotted and written. 

It’s no surprise then that Goblin, a collection of six novellas that segue masterfully into a full-length novel, will make this three-for-three for Malerman. Reading like a literary equivalent of Michael Dougherty’s modern Halloween classic Trick ‘r Treat fused with Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies and framed within a Creepshow-style anthology narrative, Goblin is Malerman’s bid to universe-build, much in the same way Stephen King has done with Derry, his fictional Maine town that’s served as the setting for novels like It, Bag of Bones, and Dreamcatcher, and been referenced in countless other King works. In Goblin—the town and the book—Malerman constructs a lively topography complete with apocalyptic rains, a cemetery where the dead are buried standing up, haunted woodlands inhabited by a whispering witch and glowing-eyed owls, and a weirdly robotic-alien police force straight out of an unaired episode of The Twilight Zone.

Unlike Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel, which were both decidedly darker and unbearably tense at times, Malerman lets loose a little on Goblin, imbuing each of the six novellas with larger-than-life characters in ghoulishly exaggerated situations.  Among the more memorable denizens of the titular Michigan town that readers meet: A lovelorn outcast who mails body parts to the object of his affections; an overworked tour guide who mixes up his places of employment with tragic consequences; a man so terrified of encountering ghosts in his apartment that he rips out all the walls; a little boy enamored of magic and magicians who sneaks out of the house for an ill-fated midnight magic show; a wealthy, egocentric big game hunter whose narcissism is trumped by an unlikely source; and a grieving widower whose intricately-carved topiary maze holds the literal and metaphorical key to release from his sorrow.  The six novellas that comprise Goblin are bookended neatly between a prologue and epilogue that tell a seventh story involving an out-of-town truck driver making an unusual delivery in the dead of night that hooks into the town’s rich and bloody history.

Malerman once again shows a singular imagination, conjuring imagery that’s at once familiar and fresh. Whereas Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel used sensory deficit to engage the reader’s own imagination to fill in the descriptive blanks, Malerman seems to reward readers here for all that hard work by laying out a lush, garishly-colored palette of flamboyance and visual excess that’s as vivid as an Argento Blu-ray behind the mind’s eye. It’s all a marvelously fun affair, with stories weaving and intersecting—like an amusement park ride through Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. Goblin strikes the perfect balance between its ghastliness and gallows humor, making it both an ideal Halloween destination and a place readers are going to want to visit again.

Purchase Goblin by Josh Malerman.

Posted on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 11:18AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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