by Nate Kenyon
Review by Andrew Brooks
Leisure Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780843960211
Date: 25 November 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Nate Kenyon, 2007 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, follows up his highly praised Bloodstone with another great read in The Reach. Sarah is a special child, with a gift that she doesn't want but which other parties are very much interested in. She's telekinetic, and a very powerful one at that, but she might also be insane or close to it. That's what Jess Chambers is brought in to figure out, as she's assigned to try and make a connection with the girl by one of her college professors. Of course Jess has no idea what Sarah is capable of, or who else is interested in her progress with the girl, and what motives they might have.
The Reach is one part Firestarter and one part The Green Mile, two novels by author Stephen King, and a writer Kenyon has been compared to since his book Bloodstone. I realize that's high praise, and perhaps The Green Mile comparison doesn't immediately jive. But bear with me.
To call The Reach simply a horror story isn't fair. Much like Moreland's Shadows in the Mist, a book I've also reviewed this month, The Reach strives for, and mostly attains, a sense of the subtle fraying of reality. An easing into the suspension of disbelief that few authors do well, but one that is integral to losing yourself in the story. Kenyon accomplishes this and, one hopes, is starting a movement back to what horror books used to be like. You know, the good old days, when that King guy was selling horror fiction to people who didn't normally read that kind of thing. Back when suspense was what drove you to flip the pages, back when dread, what really sticks with you long after the severed limbs and bloated corpses have faded from your memory, filled the best stories. The Reach oozes dread, and for good reason.
Because Kenyon gives us character here, and not the kind with the frayed and dotted edges. Minor characters aside, Jess and Sarah stand out, you learn who they are and what they're striving for long before the novel slides into its frenetic race to the climax. There's an early mention of Jess' professor, Shelley, in which she's described as looking like Diane Keaton, and I wondered at that moment if Kenyon would take the easy route on presenting his characters. He didn't. Jess is a character Kenyon delves into, and one in which the reader can care about. That's important, especially in a book where things are going to get messy later on. And they do. It's important because with both Sarah and Jess there's something at stake, and something I believe Kenyon conveys very well is that it's not just their lives hanging in the balance. In this way do I think the comparisons between King and Kenyon are valid.
The Green Mile reference? Sarah and John Coffee are misunderstood and in need of someone to patiently guide them both to the outside world, and their place in it. Each character possesses extraordinary powers, with little to no perception of their own self, and their guide (in The Reach's case, Jess) goes from terrified to receptive of their wards abilities.
The Reach ratchets the tension up with each chapter, before storming through to an Armageddon like finale followed by a nice denouement which might, or might not, suggest Kenyon isn't through with a few of the characters. Whether Kenyon's next novel take place in the same when doesn't matter. I'll read whatever this guy puts out next. Highly recommended.