This was my first experience with Ramsey Campbell and a buddy read with the ever-patient Thomas Strömquist. I came to the 80’s and 90’s English horror game late in life, somewhere in the ass-end of my twenties. While everyone was reading the Ramsey Campbells and the Brian Lumleys and the Clive Barkers, I was over here reading Richard Laymon, Bentley Little, and Dean Koontz, back when Koontz was considered a horror author because of such successes asPhantoms and Strangers. I think the only 80’s-90’s horror author I read in the 90s was Stephen Laws, and I remain a fan of his to this day, even though I don’t think he’s writing anymore. If that’s accurate information, that’s a real shame. Laws is/was terrific. Look him up.
The Hungry Moon does some things right and others things that are not necessarily wrong but whacky as fuck. I think the biggest disappointment I had while reading this was a significant lack of character development. If I’m to spend 300+ pages with a group of characters, I want to feel something for those characters. In this book, I couldn’t tell half of the characters apart, and those I could pinpoint upon seeing their names were very one dimensional. I can tell you with 100% certainty who Diana and Nick were, and Mrs. Scraggs and Godwin Mann, but everyone else was basically a toss off. We have the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker… I kid, but there is one character who is called the butcher throughout the book. The guy’s a literal butcher, as in a cutter of meat for the public, and he has a pretty good size role for a toss off, but he is only ever called the butcher. I love how the dude’s not worked in days and Campbell describes him as always smelling like old blood. Does anyone in this town shower after work?
Other than the character development, the writing is fantastic. It’s atmospheric as hell, too. Several times Campbell managed to give me goosebumps, which isn’t easy to do. The descriptions of scenes in the dark were nerve wracking and some of the best I’ve read in any genre, in any decade, period. (I wonder if this book was Tim Curran’s inspiration for Blackout.) Ramsey has some serious chops and is, in my personal opinion, easier on the eyes that Clive Barker’s bloated prosaic meanderings. Campbell seems to say twice as much with half the words as Barker. If I were to have to choose a novelist, English or otherwise, to compare Campbell to, I don’t think I could. No one comes to mind. I’ve never read anyone who writes quite like this guy. For that reason alone, I’ll be sampling more of his work.
The ending is a total and complete copout, though. Campbell takes the easy way out and just makes some shit up on the spot. I know what you’re thinking. This is fiction. Of course he made something up. But that’s not what I mean. The ending is very Stephen King. But we’ll discuss all that in the spoiler discussion, because the ending isn’t the only thing Campbell seems to borrow from King.
In summation: Whenever I set this book down, I was never drawn to pick it back up, but I wanted to know what happened, so I forced myself to. When I did jump back in, I could only read about 20-30 pages at a time. Not sure why. It wasn’t a difficult read, and I loved the writing style, but something was off. I chalk it up to me not having anyone in the book to care about. *shrugs*
Final Judgment: A well-written scary book about some faceless folks.
Spoiler Discussion: There are spoilers for some Stephen King books in here too.
How many things did Campbell borrow from Stephen King? Lemme count the ways…
1. Shapeshifting spider creature. Even though IT is not a spider creature, only a shapeshifting creature stuck in the form of a spider, it’s still odd that another author would recreate the idea only a year after King’s book was published.
2. Dumbfuck psychic bullshit that comes out of nowhere. I think I go back to Under the Dome for this one, where a character is suddenly given a vision of where the bad thing came from and is suddenly psychically linked because reasons. I know King has done this a lot in his career, but that’s the most recent use of that bullshit that I can think of.
3. Main character just gets lucky in the end with how to kill the monster even though there no fucking reason for them to be doing what they are doing. Diana start chanting some shit because… well, because I don’t fucking know why. She just suddenly thinks it’s a good idea and starts belting something. We don’t know what because Campbell doesn’t tell us, even though he spent the majority of the book drafting entire songs word for word. (“Harry Mooney” anyone?) Why couldn’t he write something for Diana to sing? Fuck if I know.
One thing Campbell sure as shit didn’t borrow from King is the character development, but I guess he had to stop somewhere.
Thanks for joining me. If you would like to continue the Spoiler Discussion in the comments below, be a friend and use spoiler tags.