Without fail, virtually every Recommended Halloween Reads list I see that's worth its salt mentions Dark Harvest, a Bram Stoker Award winner and World Fantasy Award nominee. Any time I ask, or see somebody else asking, for some Halloween recommendations, Dark Harvest invariably comes up. It's one of those titles that is considered a classic by many, a mandatory October read. High time that I read it, then.
And you know what?
I freaking loved Dark Harvest. Presuming I don't suffer any serious blows to head anytime soon, the next time somebody asks me for some Halloween reading recs I'm pretty damn sure Dark Harvest is going to be at the top of my list. Norman Partridge has written an essential Samhain story, and the October Boy is a quintessential piece of Halloween.
Right from this novella's opening pages, I was sucked in. Partridge's authorial voice is mightily effective, the writing tight and hypnotic. The first few pages are devoted to corn stalks withering and weeds growing - in less capable hands, this stuff would not be even the least bit attention grabbing and yet Partridge demands your full attention, luring you in as he breathes life into the October Boy, a supernatural scarecrow-like being with with a carved pumpkin head. Every year, the October Boy comes to life, hunting the teenage boys of a small town and hacking his way through those hunting him in return. Rest assured, there's a bit more going on here, but I won't spoil the details.
For the entire duration of Dark Harvest, I found myself lost in Partridge's narrative. I didn't want to leave his story world. I could not and did not put the book down until I was finished. It's incredibly rare that I'm able to read anything of a substantial page count in a single sitting, and yet I did so with Dark Harvest. I don't even remember the last time something like that happened. Given the insurmountable nature of my TBR pile, I don't allow myself the luxury of re-reading my favorites, and yet I'm already anticipating cracking this book open again come next October.
Dark Harvest is an award winner, a classic according to more than a few, a must-read Halloween treat. Turns out, there's a damn good reason for that. Partridge has given us one hell of a bounty with this particular harvest, one that I suspect is going to keep on giving year after year.
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