SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 523 Thunderland, by Brandon Massey Book Review |

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Thunderland, by Brandon Massey
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Dafina Books
Published: 2002
Review Posted: 12/21/2004
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Thunderland, by Brandon Massey

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Jason Brooks is tormented by recurring dreams of a stranger stalking him in his own home. Unwilling to ask his parents for help, the boy turns to his friends - but their plan to contact the stalker through a Ouija board backfires. No longer content to haunt Jason while the boy sleeps, the Stranger turns life into a waking nightmare for Jason and his friends by bringing them into his own world where he possesses god-like powers - Thunderland.

Beneath its thrills and chills, Brandon Massey's Thunderland is a portrait of a dysfunctional family. Jason's mother is a recovering alcoholic, and his father is a confirmed workaholic and an adulterer - so in his time of greatest need, Jason must rely on friends he has known for only three months. Terrified of the Stranger, the boys arm themselves as best they can - but readers may be less disturbed by the Stranger than they are by the thought of a teenager bringing a handgun to the grocery store: "As they rounded the side of the supermarket,...[h]e still wore the .22 in the ankle holster, concealed under his jeans."

Massey fills his book with cliched characters - the mother who has turned her back on the bottle, the father who fills his days with work and his nights with a mistress, the wise maternal grandfather, and the abusive paternal grandfather in a nursing home. But somehow, the author draws readers into the melodrama and makes them care enough to endure all of the long-winded speeches like, "[M]y new priorities have nothing to do with drinking. You're one of my new priorities. I want to be a good mother to you because you're a good kid, and you deserve the best I can give you. Showing you that I love you is the most important thing in my life. With that as my goal, I can't afford to ever drink again." Massey balances such verbose dialogue with vivid slang used by the teenagers; unfortunately, this accomplishment may work against the novel in the long run - although the vernacular phrases ring true now, they will become dated as the years pass.

In order to enjoy Thunderland, readers will need to maintain a suspension of disbelief throughout the book. For example, a character becomes a self-taught expert on hypnosis after a few hours' worth of research on the Internet. Another character hopes to reverse his partial amnesia by falling out of a tree a second time - the kind of logic found only in an episode of "The Flintstones."

Potential readers should not be discouraged by all of this nit-picking - the book is more than the sum of its parts. Thunderland is a confident and carefully revised first novel; Massey consistently uses the full range of human senses in his writing. He also does an amazing job of varying his descriptions of thunder, lightning and rain - no small achievement for a story that depends so heavily on storms to announce the presence of the Stranger. Brandon Massey followed Thunderland with a vampire novel called "Dark Corner," then edited the "Dark Dreams" collection. His current projects include a ghost story and a potential series of "Dark Dreams" anthologies.
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