My fifth foray into the mind of Jonathan Janz was, as I’ve come to expect from this author, worth every penny.
We have a group of writers here called to a secret retreat by an eccentric author who, while not prolific, has won every award there is, not to mention fortune and adoring fame. The game is fairly simple: all the authors have to write something completely new and fresh, and it must be in the horror genre. Problem is, most of them aren’t horror authors. Yet, with a guaranteed publishing contract with one of the Big 5 houses in New York, and a $3,000,000 prize, no one is eager to walk away.
But nothing is as it seems. As the bodies start piling up, and the remaining contestants start to piece together what’s happening, all while dealing with haunting shame and guilt for their past sins, the eccentric host is slowly revealed to be something much more sinister than merely a condescending and cruel critic.
What can I say about Janz’s writing I haven’t before? I’m not sure I’m able to be fully original when speaking of his work since discovering him, so forgive me if I fall on a few tropes here. The man is, quite simply, one of the best in the business. And that’s the God’s honest truth. I’ve long been a fan of several names you’ll find quite familiar: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, etc., etc. You know all those names and like me, are probably tired of hearing them all the time (though we all seem to run out and snatch up their latest releases…well, all but Koontz, but you get my point). Jonathan Janz is not only worthy of their company, he rises above them in many ways. His stories are always original, his characters always fully realized, and his prose always pitch-perfect. I could go on, but I’m no gusher (*radio from HQ squawks* “Chris Miller is a liar, over…”).
One thing Janz has managed to do to me with all his work I’ve had the pleasure of devouring is make me squirm in my seat. Whether through descriptions of things which are horrifyingly painful or merely uncomfortable, or in many cases LITERALLY scaring (something very hard to do to me with a book), Janz knows how to use his pen to evoke feeling and emotion, and he does so effectively here. Seriously, TRY reading this or another of his books without moaning and shifting your seated position at least once due to what’s on the page. I dare you.
So, should horror fans check out THE DARK GAME? What are you, an idiot? Of COURSE they should! Horror fans can’t go wrong with him. Should NON-horror fans check him out? Again, your stupid is showing. Yes, EVERYONE, of ANY persuasion should check into his work. While it may be horror, this is not just buckets of gore and creepy shadows. This is a real story about real people thrust into a terrifying situation where the past that’s been haunting you is finally catching up…and no one is safe from or immune to it. That’s a human story ANYONE can connect with. And I encourage you to do so.
5/5 stars once more to Jonathan Janz for THE DARK GAME…it may be a trope for me to praise the man, but sometimes the tropes are true. Be sure to get the book in digital, print, or audiobook here.