Dark Woods by Steve Voake
|Dark Woods by Steve Voake|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Highly original thriller-come-horror story involving weird science, bogeymen and being lost in the woods. You'll never think of a camping trip in quite the same way again.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2011|
|Publisher: Faber & Faber|
|External links: Author's website|
Cal has been taken on holiday to America by the latest in a long line of foster families. Despite the trip, there are tensions. Cal has been let down so many times that he refuses to trust in anyone and he rejects any overtures his foster mother makes. He knows they'll send him back to the children's home - the only question is when. So when he meets Eden - vital, funny, exciting - at a campsite and she suggests a walk in the woods, Cal snatches at the chance to get away with someone who doesn't know anything about him or his past.
Watching them is Jefferson Boyd, a lone outcast and renegade scientist. He believes he has found a way to turn dreams into reality but he can't do it alone, and he's not above abducting two teenagers to achieve his ambitions. But Boyd hasn't planned for the inhabitants of Cal's dreams, or of Eden's for that matter - and these nightmarish creatures are about to be released...
... cue a genuinely frightening lost in the woods horror adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed, galloping through the whole thing in one rather breathless sitting.
I confess that I wasn't completely convinced by the character of Boyd. You have badder-than-bad baddies and you have tortured baddies who are bad for a reason and are somewhat sympathetic. Boyd falls somewhere between the two and since the dream-conjured creatures are so very badder-than-bad, it left me a tad confused to the actual villain of this piece? Is it Boyd? Or is it the scissor man, with Boyd as a flawed but ultimately innocent facilitator?
Otherwise, though, I loved this original thriller-come-horror story involving weird science, bogeymen and being lost in the woods. It's easy to read and it really is rather scary. I'll think twice before future camping trips, that's for sure. And the exploration of dreams and dream motifs as metaphors for human emotion was very interesting, locking in very nicely to the book's underlying themes of facing up to the past in order to move on.
And I liked both Cal and Eden, who are two very different in outlook and personality but whose differences forge a friendship in which each complements and fulfills the other. Cal is reserved and suspicious but in need of some unconditional affection offered regardless of his emotional baggage. Eden is outgoing and positive but rash and impulsive and needs the kind of non-judgemental break someone like Cal can provide.
Dark Woods will find a wide readership - from horror fans, through thriller addicts right through to those who like reading about social issues and emotional conflict.
My thanks to the good people at Faber for sending the book.
If they like a good thriller, they might also enjoy Buried Thunder by Tim Bowler in which the woods also contain some nasty secrets. We can also recommend Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers and The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Woods by Steve Voake at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Woods by Steve Voake at Amazon.com.
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