Posted on September 4, 2009 by Monica Valentinelli
Bentley Little (The Academy) brings to life a new story of paranoia, inference and murder in His Father’s Son. Please note that this review does have a few spoilers.
This novel is about Steve Nye, a frustrated writer (literally) whose mediocre life is shaken up when his father is admitted to a psych ward after trying to kill his mother. After getting to know the Nye family, you’ll realize that they are normal-yet-dysfunctional in a way that any family might be; the mother is a devoted Christian while the rest of the family is not and the family doesn’t normally show affection to one another. Desperate for his father’s approval, Steve ends up trying to understand his father’s cryptic phrases and words in the hospital. Although his dad cannot semantically put words together due to his physical state, there are times when his dad is lucid. As a result, Steve places an almost unnatural importance on the phrase “I killed her,” to the point where he feels compelled to not only investigate, but also to “protect” his dad’s “secrets” by killing others himself.
You won’t find any supernatural horror in His Father’s Son. The “horror” here comes from the descriptions of the murders Steve commits and the fantasies that he has. Simply, this is a book about how horror doesn’t have to be external, it can be internal.
In my opinion, I felt that the leap from Steve “Devoted Son” to Steve “the Murderer” happened pretty abruptly. While I expected something to happen, I wasn’t sure if there was going to be an aura of the paranormal or not. I enjoyed the way Little showed us how Steve was “falling.” First, he reveals a little bit about Steve’s mindset through the short stories that he writes which, on the surface, seem uncharacteristic of an average guy. Second, we “see” what Steve sees through his dreams and waking visions. Once Steve started to fall, his character was a lot more believable but up until that point, I had a hard time getting into the story. Also, I felt that this book was heavy on the “power” that Steve must feel, which sometimes led to descriptions and sexual acts that I didn’t particular care for, but did fit his character.
I liked the ending quite a bit, because it’s definitely the type of ending I prefer in horror. Overall, this story reminded me a little bit of Gerald’s Game by Stephen King because the psychological horror was similar to me, but was still accessible to a larger audience of readers. His Father’s Son is a well-written look into one character’s mind as he willingly (almost lovingly) becomes a murderer.
Review by Monica Valentinelli