When I cracked the cover of Gary Braunbeck's "In Silent Graves" and read roughly the first 100 pages, my blood ran as cold as ice. Not from the increasing sense of doom and gloom, although there is plenty of that going on initially, but from the disturbingly eerie resemblence between the opening chapters of this book and the novels of horror author Tom Piccirilli. If you've read Piccirilli's books, you know what I'm talking about. He's the guy who takes an interesting idea and derails it by burdening the plot with over the top surrealism. I've read two of Piccirilli's horror books, "The Night Class" and "The Deceased," and felt as though I'd stepped into a world created by a crazed Salvador Dali. These two books made no sense whatsoever yet fans around the world lauded them as the best new thing in horror. I feared Gary Braunbeck's book was going to be a retread of Piccirilli's style. How wrong I was! Stick with "In Silent Graves" even if you feel as though you will never understand what is going on. By the time the book wraps up, not only will you completely comprehend every aspect of the narrative, you'll realize this book is one of the best novels you've read in ages. I can't believe I haven't heard of this guy before now.
"In Silent Graves" tells the unique story of one Robert Londrigan, a local television news reporter in a town called Cedar Hill. Robert and his wife Denise are happily expecting the birth of their first child, a birth that, if everything goes well, will be their first after several disappointing attempts. Unfortunately, the Londrigans get into a nasty fray on Halloween night that results in Robert storming out of the house in a huff. Too mad to return home right away, Londrigan strolls down to the local park where he soon undergoes a most curious experience. He runs into an enigmatic figure, a quite horrific one actually, and one that changes forever his conceptions of reality and humanity as he knows it. When he finally returns home, Denise is collapsed on the bedroom floor, an ambulance arrives, and Robert soon learns that he must face the prospect of a bitter and lonely life. Or will he? It turns out that Londrigan must experience the deepest depths of despair and tragedy before hope and redemption will allow him to bask in the light of eternal love. For once, and this is a big deal considering how I love to write lengthy, in depth reviews, I refuse to give away further plot details. The story is simply too good to risk ruining it for others.
I will say that Braunbeck takes a fairy tale story everyone has heard about at some point in their childhood yet reworks it in a way you could never imagine. "In Silent Graves" toys with the idea of reality, time, and space in exciting ways; it calls into question memory and indicts the human race for its treatment of children. The children especially form a central part of the story of Robert Londrigan, who must learn to understand the true meaning of despair if he is to ever escape the torment his life has become since the demise of his wife. If Robert can do this, if he can succeed in attaining a higher level of understanding, what is ugly and tragic will become beautiful and sublime. It's a big task for one man, but fortunately he has some powerful allies on his side pulling for him to make it. The fate of tens of thousands rests on him doing so.
Braunbeck's realizes his vision largely due to his fetching prose style, which eschews verbosity in favor of concisely language imbued with heartfelt emotion. I can't remember the last time I read a book categorized as a horror novel that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, "In Silent Graves" brought a mist to my eyes not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions. It's not the gore or violence that caused me to choke up, but rather the lengthy passages on how humanity abandons its children to the mindless cruelty of this mortal coil. Of course, if all Braunbeck could do is write emotionally charged paragraphs, he wouldn't be all that different from many other writers. Thankfully, the author's imagination is as good as his writing abilities. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this book, but am I glad I decided to read it. I don't know how the mechanics involved in awarding the Bram Stoker prize for best novel in the horror genre works, but Gary Braunbeck should certainly win one for this novel if there is any justice in the world.
Horror author Michael Marano wrote a most enlightening introduction for "In Silent Graves" that in and of itself is worth reading. He laments the decline of publishing houses willing to take a chance on books that set up camp outside the paint by number formulas so readily accepted by the masses today. It's a quite amusing introduction-he calls one mystery book he read "retina-scrapingly bad"-that paints an ugly picture of what passes for literature today. Gary Braunbeck's book stands in stark opposition to these formulaic atrocities; his is a work that will stay with me long after I return the book to the library. Speaking of which, I'm angry I checked this out instead of buying a copy because I should have supported the author with my dollars. I've rambled long enough. What you need to do is get out there and pick this one up immediately. You won't be disappointed.
Ok, I'll say it. Wow. In Silent Graves deserves a Wow.
Robert Londrigran is an up and coming local TV newscaster, well on his way up the ladder, with a beautiful and pregnant wife at home. Then, his world crumbles. After a spat on Halloween evening, Londrigan goes for a walk in the park and meets a piece of his destiny wearing a mask of horror. When he returns home, he finds his wife crumpled on the floor, dying.
Not only does Robert loose the wife he loved so much, but his daughter's body is taken from the morgue. Braunbeck captured the dark torture of loss so well in his telling of Robert's grief that I was simply mesmerized.
Even at the start of Robert's journey of anguishing loss, his reality begins to slide as he is re-visited by the strange masked figure from the park. Something is happening to Robert, either he is going mad or he is transcending to a different state of awareness and being. Robert must open his heart, his mind, and his soul before he can see the truth of what his life is, and what it can become if he only believes.
In Silent Graves is part fantasy, part horror, part love, part tragedy, part inspirational, and part brutal reality. The story is fantastical, the content weeping with the brutality of the human race, and the prose graphically poetic. Quite frankly, I've never read anything like it; this is truly a unique and terrific book.
A bit of warning for those who are faint of heart, there are scenes of corpse manipulation here that could churn your stomach if you are not used to such grotesqueries; but I myself found the horror of real life child abuse scraping my soul far emptier than a little putrefying flesh could.
This is a graphically painted tale, with overwhelming sorrow and unbearably beautiful love, stylishly written in flowing prose that kept me awake and reading long after bedtime.
I could ramble and praise much longer, but will instead close with this; if you purchase one book this year, you should purchase In Silent Graves. I loved it that much. Enjoy!
This is not going to be one of my favorite horror novels. It was a hard story to follow and fully comprehend. Some would call it a "thinking mans" horror story.
The book started out exciting and frightening and full of booga-booga, then after about 100-150 pages, it became hard to follow. The story started bouncing back and forth, from past to present and one character was someone else from the past.....
I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.
If you love the type of horror written by Layman, Little, Laws, or Bailey, to name a few, you will probably not care for this book. If you are looking for something new, different and off-beat, this may be right up your alley. Mr. Braunbeck makes some moral statements toward the end of the story which is okay, but not what you would expect in a horror novel. Most people read horror for the sheer entertainment value, not to be morally enlightened by the plight of others.
It sounds like I didn't care for this book which is just not true. It was a very different type of horror story, not really my cup of tea, but it was a new and different experience. It took talent and a lot of effort to create the type of tale contained within these 378 pages. The raw emotion the main character showed was phenomenal. Give it a try and judge for yourself.
I've read thousands of books, of all types, and rarely has one moved me so deeply. I'm not entirely sure why this book is categorized in horror, it does have some gore albeit not gratuitous, but it was not "scary" in the typical way. What is scary about it are the parts that are all too true in our world today, knowing that our beautiful children are sometimes (if not often) abused in the ways put forth in this novel, is truly frightening.
This book though can't really be classified in any one way. It is so unique as to need a classification all it's own. Yes, the editing could've been better. There were misplaced words and some mispellings which can sometimes ruin a book for me. But this book went beyond a "reading" and was an "experience" I will be forever thankful for, in spite of the editing sometimes being poor.
An excerpt from the introduction by Michael Marano: You feel this book, and you're made to feel in new ways because of it. It exists to be read and experienced and it exists to take you into those deep places within us most books are too afraid to let us acknowledge even exist.
I cannot recommend this book more highly, it is a MUST read!
Yes, I despair......
on March 31, 2004
In Silent Graves is ostensibly a story about a man unraveling the mystery of his wife's past, but his search leads him to discover some of his own secrets as well. A love story and an urban fantasy as well as a mystery and a horror novel, this book encompasses broad themes like the meaning of true love, the damaging effects of child abuse, and what it means to be human. At the same time, the completely believable characters and fast-moving plot make it a damned good story that will leave the reader wanting more.
Gary Braunbeck has been called the future of horror. This book shows why he could be the future of literature.
on September 22, 2004
Some that are familiar with my reviews may be surprised that I gave this "horror" novel 5 stars, believe me I was surprised as well. Partially because reading the back of the mass market paperback edition, whose synopsis does not provide any spoilers as much as a succinct synopsis of the plot and high praise.
Other reviewers have also summed up the plot, relieving me(unintentionally) I am sure of trying to add new tantalizing teasers to further acclaim this novel while providing plot elements.
Mr Michael Morano bravely and ethically introduces the story. In fact so inspiring is his introduction that my expectations of the novel skyrocketed into the tight orbit of implausiblity, only reading the introduction(not even the first chapter of actual tale yet) I became convinced no novel could deliver all that was promised.
Another brief digression while reading the first half, although I felt discomforted (as I am sure was Braunbeck's intent into exposing such a personal glimpse of tragedy), I felt I could put down the novel and did meaning to read other books until the feeling moved me to finish this one. Yet this past weekend I determined it would probably be in my own best interests to finish what I had started. If only because I hate leaving a book half finished unless it is so abysmal it would cost me my integrity to do so, which most assuredly was not the case here.
While slogging through the story a dam inside me burst open. His words on the pages seemed almost to blur by in a lyrical melody of fresh prose, while still underscored by the terrible themes.
Braunbeck's payoff adequately fulfilled my time investment reading his book which turned out to be an intensely gratifying reward. Everything Morano promised was true. So real was his conviction, I realized, that it only took me until halfway through the book to fall into that realization.
Braunbeck is not only a rising talent in the 21st century annals of horror, but he is also a visionary and inspiration to all readers, writers and writer wannabes.:)
on April 25, 2004
don't take critic blurbs on a back cover of a paperback seriously. But when a critic says the book is "not for the squimish" it piques my interest. So when In Silent Graves came in the mail thru my Leisure Book Club I decided to read it first.
The foreward was an interesting take on the modern publishing world. The writer compares Mr Braunbeck's writing as more then just a novel but a classic all readers should read. I 100% agree w/ him!
In Silent Graves is about a man's journey thru grief, societies views on children born less then perfect, true love and soul mates, the Caballah, Gnosticism and a little bit of Greek Philosphy thrown in.
Robert is a man who had a troubled childhood. On Halloween his wife Denise dies and his stillborn severly deformed daughter Emily is born. In the morgue Robert is attacked and Emily's body is stolen. The attacker asks Robert "Do you despair?".
He must cope with his grief and try to keep his sanity as he slowly finds out the world as he knows it may not be what it seems to be.
Somewhere else a child is born unloved and abused, another severly deformed, another thrown away like trash...
I will not go further and spoil the plot but I gotta say following Robert thru his journey of self realization is an enjoyable jouney.
I do have to warn those who are easily upset to be aware there are some graphic scenes of child abuse,child murder and desecration of childen's corpses. Not to mention a psuedo incestual sex scene but it isn't what it seems.
And as weird as it sounds this whole book isn't what it seems. Yes it is a horror story, yes there is some gore (but all plot driven and not thrown in for gore's sake) but it is also a love story, a fairy tale(as a matter of fact some of the plot twists come from a very specific fairy tale) and a story about redemption. Maybe even redemption of society.
So, Do You Despair?
on June 25, 2006
I had high expectations towards this book due to both the good reviews then the introduction and I was sorely let down.
I may be in the minority here, but I have never cared for books that detail dreams in a long drawn-out fashion, and this one resembled that sort of thing only it seemed to me that the narrator Robert was outright hallucinating rather than dreaming.
The story begins Halloween night when Roberts' pregnant wife
dies unexpectedly and the unborn child is stolen from the morgue. Robert's grief is very real and heartfelt to the core so I cannot claim it to be lacking true emotion.
Thereafter, the story, for me, loses any sense of footing on solid ground, all the while being related from Robert's point of view.
I suppose it matters if the reader views it as hallucinations, as I did, or off-the-wall reality that really makes the difference.
The grotesque individuals Robert meets in Pied-Piperville seemed to me about as comprehensible as the sun turning purple.
I continued to read the book in hopes of finding a logical outcome. I wanted to have a grasp of what was really happening, yet going through Robert's overly bizarre experiences and encounters left me empty and unbelieving.
I never did find a satisfying twist or reasonable explanation.
While being a well-written book full of emotion, grief, and feelings of loss and longing, it's overall premise was too fantastical for me. It did noy cause me to think deeply, ponder, or delve into the deeper places within as mentioned in the introduction.
on January 14, 2010
My initial impression after the first few pages was "wow, this man can certainly write!" I had not seen such intense prose in genre fiction probably since William Gibson's seminal Neuromancer. Unlike Gibson's minimalism, Braunbeck inflates and infuses warm human emotions and deep tragedies in his writings. The passages on protagonist's grieving and final proclamation of undying love rank among the most tear jerking, heart breaking moments in horror or "serious" literature.
My initial excitement quickly dissipated half way through the novel as its grand mythology and themes unfold. The mythology is far fetching and overwhelming. It lacks internal logic, and has this making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel. It traces all the way back to the 8th day of Creation, and is then clumsily shoehorned into a simple contemporary love lost and regained story. The division of time and space between the eternal and temporal is supposed to explain away the numerous "ghostly" and surreal occurrences. I find it unsatisfying and lazy. In addition, the theme of child abuse is superfluous. It adds little to novel's central myths, and often distracts this reader from its love story.
Braunbeck's tasty prose certainly sets new standard in horror and fantasy. Even though I find his mythology problematic and even irksome, I will likely try another one of his works in future. Hopefully, he tunes down mythologizing and focuses on his strengths: straight storytelling and characterization.
on September 14, 2009
Braunbeck's new novel is initially centered around Robert Londrigan who, after a nasty fight with his precariously pregnant wife, storms out of their house on Halloween and goes for a walk, but after brooding, and then calming down he goes home only to find his wife dying from a miscarriage. In a panic, he calls an EMS unit, but she doesn't make it. The whole scene where Londrigan has to deal with his wife's death is classic. It could be taught in writing classes. Then, after the autopsy, Londrigan is beaten up in the hospital, his child's fetus is stolen, and here is where the real story begins as Londrigan discovers time malfunctions, a secret cache of damaged children protected by the immortal Rael existing outside of "normal" society's perception, and his and his wife's destiny.
Unfortunately, you come to realize that Braunbeck just can't decide what type of novel he wants to write, as he tries to give us three types of novels at once, with none of them working well. The first and best is the portrait of a grieving husband coming to terms with two grievous losses and his own shortcoming as a husband. The whole part in which Londrigan is in the hospital is some very powerful stuff. Been there, did that, and didn't like it, unfortunately we all know that we will be there again, the death of a loved/spose/child is nothing to be forgotten. Unfortunately, Braunbeck undercuts this with some stylistic surrealism gibberish about Cronos and Kairos time in which Braunbeck will have Londrigan say or do something only to have that scene repeated with one of the scenes turning out to have been false, or maybe not. Like an obsessive who is doomed to repeat themselves, Braunbeck CONSTANTLY repeats this tired literary bait and switch jump cut parlor trick so often in the first two hundred pages that he undercuts any empathy and interest I had with Londrigan's plight. I soon became to realize that anything that happens in the novel was becoming purely arbitrary, and that at times Braunbeck was just making it up as he went along, and to hell with consistency.
However, after page 225 though, Braunbeck seems to have become bored with this storyline and the storytelling becomes less gimmicky so as to concentrate on Rael's society and Londrigan's grand destiny, and which reveals that most of the previous gimmicky 200 pages to have been nothing more than a literary exercise.
The loss of a spouse and child is traumatic and if Braunbeck would have concentrated on this, intertwined with his secret society subplot he would have had a helluva novel instead of two hundred pages of tedious Zen stylistics on slipstream reality that kept stopping the story cold and which helped sink the novel for me.
I grew tired of Braunbeck's messing arbitrarily about with time and reality, not willing to give the reader a straight answer to ANYTHING. Braunbeck's constant pads what should have been a hundred page novella with short stories, flashbacks, soliloquies, infodumps, and meaningless sub-plots and characters. There are plot-twists that are just jaw-droppers, as at one time Londrigan is raped by his own stolen fetus, which has now grown into a tweener, or something.
So, after TWO HUNDRED tedious pages of arbitrary and ambiguous Zen reality, only my own obsessive/compulsiveness got me to finish reading the last of this pretentious and unfocused novel, whose great message is stalking really is okay, after all, it's just a sign of true love. This novel was published with great hype, however, here the emperor wears no clothes.