Bartholomew Bennett makes his horror debut with The Pales Ones, a slow-burn work of literary cosmic horror.
In this first-person account, we are introduced to a used book dealer who makes his way through the day-to-day patrolling the discount racks of charity shops for novels he can resell online. His dealings bring him into the orbit of Harris, another seller with a favor to ask and a spate of secrets to hide...
Bennett gives us hints of horror throughout The Pale Ones, small flashes of insight into that which lies beyond, hidden just out of view and slanted slightly askew from one's direct perspectives. At one point in their collecting of battered, broken spines and battered books, Harris talks briefly of magic and the secrets of illusion and revelation. It's a singular moment upon which The Pale Ones turns, shifting from a tale of shelf hunting into something more ambitious and deeper - if, that is, our narrator can be believed as Bennett begins to introduce some subdued moments of madness and hints of insanity.
You would think that a horror story involving books would be right up my alley, and while I appreciated The Pale Ones it's a bit too slow and uneventful for my tastes. I kept waiting for something big and impactful to occur, but Bennett keeps things decidedly quiet, taking a very soft and understated approach. There are elements within the narrative, though, that point toward twistier, thornier issues, the story wrapping around itself in Möbius strip-like fashion. It's interesting, if not deeply engaging; neat, but lacking any lasting power or splashiness to make it truly memorable.
[Note: I received an advanced readers copy of this title from the publisher, Inkandescent.]
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