Kealan Patrick Burke has written some dark, though-provoking tales in his time; the kind of work that startles you on the surface, then digs in deep to disturb you on a more primal level. But he’s not afraid to cut loose every now and then, to bypass the mind and go straight for the gut with something dirty and gritty and just plain fun. Something that allows you to check your brain at the door and just hang on for dear life.
The Tent is that kind of ride.
You want something stacked full of classic genre trappings? How about a bickering family in an unfamiliar, isolated spot in the woods (in the middle of a drenching thunderstorm, no less)? And how about they stumble upon something ancient and evil, something hiding in the woods, hungry and cunning and waiting for prey?
Oh yeah – it’s all here. And it’s all good.
Burke’s not looking to reinvent the wheel in this recently-released novella. What he is looking to do is to tell a good campfire story, one that’ll make you jump at loud noises and will ensure you’ll never look at that most innocuous, essential piece of camping gear the same way again. He sets you up with a small cast of solid characters – a couple you can root for, and a couple you can root for to die – throws on a bucketful of atmosphere, and turns out the lights.
The prime thing The Tent has going for it is its creature, and I’m not about to give away that reveal. Suffice to say Burke has concocted a tasty mix of The Thing meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Twilight Zone, and he made sure to marinate it in a couple of gallons of blood before setting it free.
Burke’s writing continues to mature, and that maturity is evident even in what some might call immature material. He’s getting better and better at disappearing into the story, allowing you to forget that you’re reading and enabling you to actually experience the story as it unfolds.
The Tent wears its B-movie pedigree proudly for all to see – it’s fast-paced, gloriously gory and, at times, off-the-rails insane. It may not resonate with you with the same power that his novel Kin or his Timmy Quinn series does, but it’s likely to pop into your mind at the most inconvenient of times…say, when you’re setting up camp on a trip this summer, and night is just beginning to fall…
The Tent by Kealan Patrick Burke
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country (http://theoctobercountry.wordpress.com), and contributes interviews to the Horror World website (www.horrorworld.org). Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand