Don’t Fear The Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

4 years after the events of the novel My Heart Is A Chainsaw, Jade Daniels is back in Proofrock Idaho, right on time for Dark Mill South to arrive, a prolific indigenous serial killer who has just escaped from a prison transfer, and start killing teens like a classic slasher movie villain. (According to the media, he is seeking to avenge 38 Dakota men hanged in 1862, but this is is really just spin). Throw into the mix that it’s Friday the 13th and there’s a huge blizzard, and you have yourself a brutal dark tide overtaking the town.

Stephen Graham Jones is an award winning horror author and his books usually have an indigenous perspective or focus which I find adds something unique and fresh to the genre, and gives an often overlooked voice. I really liked his book The Only Good Indians (read my review of that book HERE), which I think I read in one sitting. It was eerie and dark.

As I mentioned, Don’t Fear The Reaper is a sequel, and will be the middle book in a trilogy, though details on the third haven’t been confirmed. The problem with sequels is that often you really need to have read the first book, and while this book does go back a little to remind us of the events of the first volume, if you haven’t read that book or don’t remember it well, this book will confuse you a bit and some of the characters won’t be as poignant.

There’s something really delightful about how much the author loves horror films, this trilogy is a love letter to horror, and how that love has infused this book. The whole is littered with references to slasher movies, from the Wes Craven films as chapter titles, to the conversations that the characters have, the name of the town, and the killings. In the first book, the main character, Jade, has learned to navigate life and survive by using horror films as a kind of bible or survival manual. I like this concept, because it feels like something a teen might really do, and it allows for some real horror homagery. The problem is that sometimes in this book, it’s overused. When characters are trying to one up each other on their horror trivia, it feels pretty awkward and stilted, and it slows down the story too. It really starts to undercut the tension because there’s a serial killer on the loose, and we really could be focused in on that plot.

Which brings me to the point that this book is a bit overlong. It’s not just the horror girl-talk conversations that are too long, but there is also Jade finding her new adult persona, there is more than one dark entity in the town, there’s backstory to go over, there are chapters where students are writing essays about the town, and it just feels like too many threads, especially at the end. Horror works with tension and fear, and slow pacing and too many plot threads really undermine that here.

If you love horror and you love this author, this is one to add to your reading list, though do read the first book first. There are some really great scenes here and the slasher killings are gory and creative. If you love slashers, like me, reading this will make you want to go back and watch some of your favourites, and there is something good here, even if the tension isn’t at it’s peak all the way through.

Read It If: you’re a Stephen Graham Jones fan or lover of slasher horror movies. It’s a little slow and awkward at times, but the authors delight for the genre is infectious.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this ARC for review.


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