by John Huber, 2017
Here is another tale of devilry from John Huber. This one is set in the Old West, where men were men and little girls were demons.
If I told you that “GraveWalker” was a story about a zombie apocalypse and the hero is a tough-as-nails zombie killer, I would be doing the book a great disservice. This book may use those tropes, but it goes much deeper and rises to greater heights. Rooted deeply in the Christian Mythos, this is a book about a man and his faith in God, even though he knows his God is a liar.
“GraveWalker” introduces a new kind of Undead. These are vampiric, or maybe they're like modern zombies, feeding on the living. But they are invisible to most people and to those unlucky enough to see them in their final moments, they appear as tiny, doll-like little girls.
One man who can always see them is Jack Carson. Perhaps he sees them because he is almost blind, his eyes given over to the darkness. Carson also possesses the ability to feel the emotions of those around him. Often, this ability leaves him devastated as he feels their pain as his own. Their fears and hatreds become his own. Carson may be a murderer but he is forever punished, raped by the dark thoughts and feelings of everyone he meets.
But never doubt that Jack Carson has an endless ability to feel sorry for himself. He bemoans his fate for pages and pages. One of the few criticisms I have of this book is the repetition in places. Another is that it's like a Romance novel: There's a little action and a whole lot of feelings about it. If this book was just about the events, it would be a short story.
Some of the writing might lose readers. “Silence holding like a death wish roiling thicker by the second, hoping for a screech in the faraway places, anything, at the last, to know they were not lonesome, fallen angels, forgotten by the eyes in the unblind.” Taken out of context, that's pure gibberish. But Huber is all about emotion, intense emotion. Don't try to make sense of it, just go with the discomforting feelings and the oppressive atmosphere, because that bemoaning and dread and mounting unease is the heart of the book.
Because not many books give us this depth of insight: “... creation was God’s greatest mistake. He made man in his own image, and the image of God was flawed. It was angry, passionate, grievous, stricken, afflicted and wretched with sorrow. Jack read hundreds of examples in the Holy Scriptures and memorized them all. God was wrathful, envious, jealous, demanding, authoritative and celestial beyond his capability to understand the ramifications of even his own actions. If He could truly understand the work of his hands, surely God would not have made men in his own image; flawed, ruled by emotion, triggered by hatred and deceptive vices like vipers. God’s nature made men raise weapons against each other in our infantile understanding of the miracles of life because God himself could not understand what he had risen, what he had brought to life.”
Once again, The Man takes on the role of a Greek Chorus, announcing and commenting on the action. The Man has an interesting commentary on Creation, stating that when the Creator, flawed in His own way, attempts to make things like us, He often makes mistakes along the way. Yet these flawed creations are more dear to the flawed Creator than those things He has made perfect. As such, those who are flawed and broken, inside or out, are the most unique... and the most Godlike.
(Interestingly enough, the last book I read, “Dead Corpse” by Nuzo Onoh, presents an oddly similar concept. In Onoh's native Nigerian metaphysics, people such as albinos are outcasts of the gods, but as the gods have shone an extra interest in them, they are therefore imbued with a deeper, more unique spiritual power. Hence the reason witchdoctors wish to make sacrifices of them.)
Despite a few criticisms about the ongoing recriminations and self-loathing, this is a powerful book. Although drawn from Christian mythology, “GraveWalker” has several powerful scenes of visual horror that will resound for any reader.