Posted on November 17, 2010 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
Having read some of Bentley Little’s work before (MY FATHER’S SON), I was really interested in picking up THE DISAPPEARANCE to see what twists and turns were in store for me.
The story takes place in our modern-day world, and infuses our worst fears into what should be a very fun weekend. A group of college students from UCLA travel to the world-renowned Burning Man festival, and experience a bizarre turn of events: they wake up from a drug-induced state to find that Gary’s girlfriend Joan has disappeared. Worse, when they contact the police, they don’t believe that she has ever existed because her digital identity has been wiped cleaned.
As the plot continues, I believed that something supernatural might be taking place. A strange language. Rustic, homely misshapen men stalk and try to kidnap them. Odd scrolls with biblical-inspired passages. Words like “outsiders.” I was drawn into this mystery because of the possibility that something horrifying was taking place and I wanted to know what it was. Once I found out, about halfway through the book, the plot seemed anti-climatic to me because it felt like something that you’d read about in the newspaper.
Although some of those supernatural elements came back a little bit toward the end, I felt very conflicted reading this book because once I realized this was a mystery — and not a straight-up horror novel — I was fine with that. What I had trouble with was how the mystery was resolved. While there was a lot of characterization in this book, I felt that there was too much of it, to the point where the pacing began to suffer. Don’t get me wrong, the first section of the book was really, really well done because I needed to turn that next page. Then, when the characters tried to go back and deal with their daily lives, I simply lost interest and wasn’t emotionally impacted by the deaths in the story.
Because I’m an avid reader, I enjoy reading fresh takes on tired themes, which is why I liked the occult flavor and the high-tech angle Little had infused in this story. Neither of these mysteries are ever resolved or hinted at, which disappointed me. I couldn’t reconcile The Homesteaders with their bizarre abilities, even though part of that was explained with the way that their cult was set up. Once the kidnappers are revealed physically, I couldn’t help but think “Oh, this is THE HILLS HAVE EYES.” Sadly, there’s even a passage or to with that comparison as well.
If you enjoy Bentley Little’s work, I think you’ll notice that THE DISAPPEARANCE is a departure from his typical writing style. While the writing itself is excellent, I thought that this four hundred page book would have worked better if some of the characterization had been edited out to tighten up the pacing. To be clear, I feel that this is less of a modern horror novel and is better served as a mystery. Horror readers that expect to be terrified will find that THE DISAPPEARANCE offers nuggets of fear, but may not enjoy the ride.
Review by Monica Valentinelli