Summer’s End is a Halloween story, but it’s less about the trappings of the holiday and more about the ancient beliefs surrounding Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest in which Halloween’s roots reside. So, if you’re expecting something that celebrates plastic pumpkins, drugstore costumes and candy corn, this is not your Halloween story. But if you’re in the mood to peek into the darkness behind the revelry, then step right up.
Author Lisa Morton seamlessly casts herself in her new novella as a respected horror author and Halloween expert – no stretch for Morton, who can lay legitimate claim to both titles – who is contacted by Irish archaeologist Conor ó Cuinn about an ancient manuscript he possesses. The man is nearly rabid in his belief that the manuscript contains information that upends virtually everything we know and believe about the season of Samhain… about the Catholic church… about the existence of magic… and about reality itself.
These are bold claims, and Morton is highly skeptical. But professional curiosity draws her in, and her initial reading of the material suggests that ó Cuinn could be right... and the strange things that begin to happen to her afterwards prove it.
Morton is clearly having a ball portraying herself as the person standing between the light of the world and the waiting darkness. However, she doesn’t paint it in such broad strokes; instead, she leaves plenty of room for her character to ponder whether it’s the best thing to stand in the way of the darkness, or help it come through. It’s not like the world is perfect, she muses, and this might be our one chance to hit the reset button.
That’s as detailed as I’m going to get about the plot. As for execution, I’d say Morton has succeeded in pulling off this curious mix of historical fact and frightening fiction. The novella includes a handful of footnotes referencing Morton’s other fiction, and others that expand on the names, places and beliefs that figure into this particular story. She’s judicious enough in her use of these that it doesn’t disrupt the flow or turn the book into a dry academic paper; instead, it’s the perfect amount of seasoning for the text.
Morton’s love and knowledge of Halloween shines through each and every page, as does her ability to craft tight, suspenseful scenes. You could easily gulp this down in one sitting, but I urge you not to. Take your time, follow those footnotes, and really soak up the atmosphere.
JournalStone is releasing Summer’s End in October, and it will be a great addition to your Halloween reading list.