His Father's Son
by Bentley Little
Review by Andrew Brooks
Signet Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451227775
Date: 01 September 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Bentley Little's His Father's Son is a bit of a departure from his others novels. There are no supernatural events or forces at play, there is nothing surreal about the events that take place in the novel and there is none of the satire typically present in a Little novel. Is that a good thing, a bad thing or no big thing at all? Depends on your expectations headed into the book, and whether you've previously enjoyed any of the author's earlier work. If you're expecting more of the same (near unexplainable events, horror on the cosmic scale) you'll walk away from His Father's Son disappointed. But if you're up for a grisly tale of murder and mayhem, and a bit of psychological terror, then you'll find this novel a good escape into the dark. 'Cause boy does it get dark.
Steve Nye was never close to his parents, his father in particular, but that all changed the day his mother called. After apparently suffering a stroke, and without provocation, his father attempts to kill Steve's mother in their front yard. He fails, though only through the intervention of some neighborhood kids, and is afterwards put into a psych ward. Where it becomes apparent to Steve that the attack may not have been related to a stroke at all, and in fact may be Steve's first glimpse into who his father really is. "I killed her," his father mutters in a trance like state, and Steve's mind is off to the races. Had his father really killed someone? Was the man even capable of killing? Steve sets out to find out the answers and in the process finds out a little bit about himself. After all, as the title posits, he is his father's son.
What Steve finds out about his father drives him to not only change his opinion of the man he previously cared to know little about, but also shifts his own view of life and what his mission in that life is. Really, letting you know any more than that would spoil the majority of this story and the dark twisted path Little leads the reader down. I will say, however, that His Father's Son has echoes of the movie Frailty and the we-re-caught-in-a-snowball-of-escalating-events narrative of Scott Smith's A Simple Plan--a great movie and a wonderful horror novel that makes you fervently wish that Smith had more books out. Horror and paranoia and what if's abound. Great stuff.
But I will say again that if you're expecting any of the same stuff that Little has put out previously then you will be disappointed. I've always thought Little subscribes to the Lovecraft school of cosmicism (although his stories differ in that the ancient evils aren't really that indifferent about terrorizing and killing humans), but this book doesn't contain those same elements. Which is good, great even, since it means Little is expanding his horror horizons. I'm pretty sure Little will continue to write novels like The Store and Dispatch, and the wonderful The Ignored (which you must read if you haven't), but this was the first of his novels that I've read that was unlike those and it was a nice change.
His Father's Son is a good choice for any horror fan and, although some Little fans may be put off by lack of the supernatural, it's a solid way to pass the time while waiting for Little's next foray into the dark and horrible. I just finished his latest and I can't wait for the next book by one of horror's most prolific, talented and entertaining writers.