SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 595 Unspeakable, by Graham Masterson Book Review |

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Unspeakable, by Graham Masterson
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 6/7/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 2 out of 10

Unspeakable, by Graham Masterson

Book Review by Benjamin Boulden

Have you read this book?

"What about bad luck? Do you believe in that?" The words are spoken by the heroine of the story, Holly Summers. They are part of a conversation between friends, but they represent the essence of the story: bad luck, curses, horror, betrayal. Graham Masterton's (The House that Jack Built, The Doorkeepers) latest novel is filled with omens, both good and bad. It is a mixture of the classical horror story and a detective novel. It seems to rattle and rumble almost aimlessly until the plot, the characters begin to crystalize into a broader meaning and then suddenly it all begins to make sense . . . until the final few scenes, which we will discuss later.

Unspeakable is the story of Holly Summers, a deaf lipreading caseworker for the Portland Children's Welfare Department. The first few chapters are agonizing and painful-they are not poorly written, but rather the events portrayed are painful, almost too real. A young Native American boy is nearly beaten to death by his father in a drunken ritual meant to expel a demon called Raven. The boy narrowly survives. He escapes death only because of Holly's intervention. The boy's father is sent to jail, and at the preliminary hearing he curses Holly with the same spirit he believed to inhabit his son: Raven-who is said to feed on the good luck of its victims.

Masterton is an old hand in the horror field, and his style and technique are solid. He uses a stark, almost artless prose to move the story forward. Unfortunately his characters are weak, hollow and contrived. The protagonist is deaf, but she doesn't act, or even feel deaf. In one scene even Masterton seems to forget his heroine can't hear. "She [Holly Summers] climbed the stairs, and as she put her key in the lock she heard laughter. . ." The dialogue is too crisp, quick and complicated to believe Holly is deaf. She seems to have all of the attributes of the hearing, with the added benefits of lipreading. There are few, if any, moments when Holly is hampered in communicating with her fellow cast members. In fact, the entire cast of Unspeakable is lacking. They are blank and unreal: cardboard cutouts that could have been more, better-should have been more. They don't match the horror and violence Holly sees on a daily basis. They don't fit the seriousness of the subject of child abuse. This shallowness of character is not unexpected, and is easily excused because the storyline moves so quickly-it can be excused so long as the story moves forward, makes sense, but unfortunately in the end even that breaks down.

This novel is purely plot. It lives by plot (it has to, because there is nothing else), and dies by plot. There are a few legitimate frights-a sequence where Holly feels a presence, she thinks Raven is following her, is well done and spooky-but unfortunately all the good is erased quickly and without mercy by an abrupt and completely unexpected ending. The climax is so ill-fitting, so bad, that it will probably alienate most readers from not only the story, but very possibly the writer as well. It feels like Masterton wanted a surprise so sudden, so unexpected that he contrived one, giving no clues, no notice, no nothing. He just attached it as the ending; it failed, and failed badly.

Masterton has proven himself better than this outing offers. Unspeakable is one you should avoid.
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