I named The Fallen Boys by Aaron Dries as one of my favorite horror novels of 2013 here on FEARnet, so my expectations were high as I cracked open his new (well, new-ish – it came out in October of last year) novella from Samhain Publishing, And the Night Growled Back. I’d like to publicly thank Dries for not making me look like a chump. Like the aforementioned novel, this new piece takes relatable actions and emotion – in this case anger, jealousy and panic – and spins them into horror that is as tragic and effective as anything based in the supernatural.
Growled features the trio of Lila, Sam, and Paul. The three are vacationing together in Iceland, and there’s an interesting dynamic at work: Lila and Sam are romantically involved, and Sam and Paul are longtime friends. While there’s an understandable tension there they seem to be working through it, and the trip has been a good one – rather, it had been a good one, until a trip to a local carnival takes a violent turn.
The story starts right after the incident, while the three are packed into a car fleeing into the night. All we’re told at that point is that they are running away from a dead body, and Dries takes his time in alternating flashback chapters filling in the details of both the incident and the relationships of the three. It’s a well-worn but effective storytelling device which Dries uses to push the story along even as he brings us up to speed on how the friends ended up in such a mess. And then, just about the time we’re locked in to thinking this is a straightforward piece about how a moment of anger and aggression can change everything, Dries flips the story upside down, turning it into a shocking and violent siege story that kick starts an adrenaline-fueled finale.
Dries slips in some intriguing foreshadowing before things kick into gear that had me thinking one thing about the force behind the assault on Lila, Sam and Paul, and I’ll admit to being a little let down initially when he didn’t follow it up. But what he presents is perfectly reasonable and, to be honest, utterly terrifying in a “that-could-really-happen” sort of way. Yes, I’m being vague, but as always I prefer to let the author do the revealing instead of the reviewer. Suffice to say that whatever disappointment I felt at the reveal was quickly overshadowed by the raw energy Dries brings to the book’s final pages.
With its simple premise, interesting characters and action-packed finale, And the Night Growled Back is a solid follow-up to Dries’ previous work, and an interesting bridge to whatever comes next.
And the Night Growled Back by Aaron Dries from Samhain Publishing.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.