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Flatheads, by Byron Starr Book Review | SFReader.com
Flatheads, by Byron Starr Genre: Horror Publisher: Creative Guy Publishing Published: 2003 Review Posted: 10/14/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Flatheads, by Byron Starr
Book Review by Jeff Edwards
Have you read this book?
Bored with bagging groceries, a college student named Kevin switches summer jobs. But signing
on as a flathead - a logger in the East Texas woods - is the biggest mistake of his life. Kevin
hasn't even broken in his new work boots before finding himself trapped in a cursed patch of
forest. Worse, he realizes that his logging crew isn't alone: Something out there is hunting them -
and it's hungry.
In Flatheads, Byron Starr follows the trail blazed so famously by writers like Stephen
King: Put average people in an everyday situation, then introduce a supernatural element and
watch the sparks fly. Although his story is only novella-length, Starr builds believable camaraderie
among the loggers, and persuades readers to care about Kevin, Derek, and their fellow flatheads.
First, the author explains the process of felling trees so clearly that readers will be ready to pick
up a chainsaw and get to work; next, he makes us feel like we're lost in the woods with the
loggers: As the men barricade themselves inside an isolated cabin, frantically trying to keep a
ravenous beast at bay, we're right alongside them, piling debris against the door.
Starr demonstrates natural storytelling ability: The sun rises, the wind whistles, and a battered log
truck climbs a steep hill as the novella opens, and readers will picture the scene easily because
the writing is so descriptive. The author also knows how to use foreshadowing: A character
claims that it's bad luck to start a job on a Friday, and his comment proves prescient when the
loggers' equipment won't cooperate and felled trees seem to disappear.
Despite the novella's strengths, there is room for improvement. Starr's word usage is sometimes
repetitive ("Finally, after several missed attempts, Derek finally was able to start a tiny flame,"
"Derek's eyes found no sign of any other life other than the trees"). Scenes that take place
outside of the woods allow Starr to reveal important details, but the tone of his writing seems off
in those passages: an attendant interacts cheerfully with a nursing home resident; a man plays
with his dog. The biggest problem is the story's uneven pacing: While the majority of the violence
occurs abruptly in one chapter, much of the book is devoted to tense inactivity, filled with such
minutiae as a character tossing a paper airplane at his sleeping friend. Mounting dread is a
necessity in any good horror story, but trimming some of the fat here would have tightened up the
Byron Starr wrote Flatheads after completing two full-length novels, and this strong effort
hints at a promising future for the new author. Starr's fiction-writing is on hiatus at the moment;
we can only hope that he picks up his pen again soon to give us more creepy East Texas tales.
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