||Apr 1, 2011
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Young adult horror.
Life held little interest for Jacob...until he found death.
Abused and neglected, Jacob's only solace comes when he is alone in the woods or in the arms of his new girlfriend. But when he stumbles across a hidden bunker filled with human skulls, he learns what true suffering is. Drawn to examine the skulls, he finds there is more than just empty blackness behind their lifeless stares. Through their eyes he watches them die.
With every glance, he witnesses another murder, the memories of the dead playing out inside his mind until reality becomes a blur. A primal cruelty awakening, Jacob returns to the morbid comfort of the skulls, over and over again. But when he happens upon a fresh skull, a victim tortured and slain for his amusement alone, he knows his time has come. Face to face with death, Jacob must choose whether to resist the darkness that dwells inside or condemn himself forever, murdering his innocence on the edge of an axe.
Jacob Rile looked into the face of death. Through a hundred eyes, death stared back.
His heart thundered in his chest. He stood rigid as he faced the array of polished white skulls laid out before him. Shallow niches carved into the earthen walls cradled the skulls. Each was angled so their blackened sockets cast their sight upon the narrow entryway to the bunker.
A slick sheen of sweat broke out on his brow and he wiped it away with a shaking hand. The dark eyes seemed to follow his movements as he shifted from foot to foot near the ladder, which led to the quiet forest above.
His huffed breaths loud in the confined space, Jacob dared a step forward. The air was cool, prickling his skin. The gentle musk of moist earth tickled his nose. He reached out a tentative hand and traced his fingers along the nearest skull, the touch light and fast. Expecting plastic, the perfect shine too bright to be real, he yanked his hand back as he felt cold bone. His fingertips tingled from the contact.
Stephen King-esque Short Story
Skulls is a fun, short read that does a good job of capturing several narrative threads in a brief space. There is first the familiar-feeling environment of Ruidoso, New Mexico. This combines seamlessly with the metal/trailer upbringing of the protagonist to give the reader an glimpse of what Stephen King might have written had he grown up listening to Megadeth. The magic sits in plain daylight and delivers in the short space of a hundred and change pages. Read this book if you enjoy the genre.
I am a lover of a good horror story, when well told it is the most enveloping of genres bringing to the surface hidden fears in our subconscious that at time are uncomfortable to deal with.
When horror is well done, when the plot and characterizations take you deep into the dark psyche then no other genre works quite as well.
Author Tim Marquitz has not only written a well-done horror story, he has gifted us with something that is of itself original and in this reader's opinion quite brilliant.
His characterization of Jacob our young hero is utterly real. Jacob is damaged but will refuse to show it, lonely and yet not a character that seeks sympathy at any time. He has resolved himself to a less than perfect life, accepting that the human failings of his parents are an integral part of his world, he doesn't whine about the lack of connection or love; he simply gets on with life...until that day when he finds the Skulls.
He is obsessed and possessed by the horror connected with them, privy to the visions of the way each of them died.
Author Marquitz doesn't hold back in his descriptions, thankfully his talent is such that in spite of clenching my teeth and holding my breath I wanted to read on, in fact I needed to read on. That is the mark of an artist with the written word; Tim Marquitz holds you in his clever hands and takes you precisely where he wants you to be. The twists in the plot are intricately drawn; the obsession harrowing, the fear of what may happen next is palpable.
I will not spoil this for others; the story is simply too damned good to do that to you.
If you love a damned fine read, if you appreciate your characters beautifully drawn, if you love the delicious fear of wonderfully written horror, this book is for you.
A must read 5/5. Now I am off to bed with all the lights on.
well-written YA horror
Jacob Rile and his friends know better than to trespass on Old Man Jenks' property. He's a killer, the rumors say, and kids have been disappearing from his property for years. But when Jacob accidentally trespasses on the forbidden land, he stumbles across a bunker hidden in the undergrowth and makes a fascinating and horrifying discovery. Because in the bunker are dozens of skulls, perfectly polished and carefully arranged as if waiting for him to arrive.
The skulls share their stories with Jacob. All he must do is look into their eyes, and he can see the last living moments of the individual. He witnesses each of the murders, feeling the emotions of the victims' dying moments, but instead of finding it terrifying, Jacob is intrigued and mesmerized. He soon becomes emotionally attached - one might even say addicted - to the skulls.
Jacob's trips to the bunker do not go unnoticed. The killer has been watching him as he comes and goes, and he has plans for the young man, plans that involve blood and death and the sharp edge of an axe. Jacob's perception of reality is about to change, and with it, his entire world.
Tim Marquitz's "Skulls" may be targeted at young adults, but it will appeal to anyone who enjoys well-written horror, regardless of age. This is a story about love, obsession, and murder that is anything but childish. This fast-paced and intense novella captured me from the first paragraph and held me fast until the final page. I found it to be frightening and entertaining and a very good read.
Mr. Marquitz's writing is wonderfully descriptive. He doesn't just tell a story, he shows it in fascinating detail. In "Skulls," he draws the reader into the mind of the young protagonist, Jacob, immersing us in the heart and horror of the story until it feels almost as if we are experiencing the action along with him. A number of scenes in this novella involve violence and bloodshed that can only be called gruesome. If Skulls were a movie, I would say that these are the kind of horrific scenes that you watch with trepidation, peeking between your fingers, preparing to flinch at any moment. I read them with something akin to anxiety, my breath held and my stomach in a knot, relieved at the end of the scene yet perversely looking forward to the next one.
While the adults in the story may be somewhat stylized (which seems appropriate in YA fiction), the teenaged characters are concisely developed and quite believable. Jacob is personable enough for us to identify with and has a spark of teen-aged rebellion in him that makes his character come to life. Although he is starved for love and lives in an extremely unpleasant home environment, he won't let us feel sorry for him. He has been denied the love that most of us take as our due, parental love, and this makes him particularly susceptible to the killer's warped plans.
There is nothing like a good plot twist to keep us on the edge, and "Skulls" delivers a twist that fits the targeted audience of this story perfectly. I enjoyed playing the guessing game over the course of the narrative, and a although I ultimately guessed the secret before it was revealed, this did not negatively impact my reading pleasure.
Horror becomes art when it flows from the pen of Tim Marquitz. This is a very talented author who knows how to frighten and entertain his readers, whatever their age group. I've yet to read anything by him that I did not enjoy, because not only does he deliver the shock and awe we expect in horror, but he does it while telling an excellent story as well.
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