Not too long ago I’d pass quickly on any TV-show tie-in novels without a second thought. I either figured them an excuse to cash in on marketing dollars, or viewed them with some cynicism having read a couple of such books from my youth that were just plain dire.
However, given my enjoyment of the TV show Supernatural, and love of the horror novel, a little while back I decided to give Christa Faust’s Coyote’s Kiss a read; I found that book to be quite enjoyable and entertaining.
Thus it was with relative ease that I picked up John Passarella’s latest offering to the Supernatural TV show’s literary canon, Night Terror. Having suspended opposition to tie-in dread fiction previously, I thought it quite possible I would, if not just tolerate, quite possibly enjoy this book.
Though it doesn’t break any conventions, I wasn’t too disappointed. Passarella’s tale is a well written, quickly paced read, that stays true to the spirit of the TV show in as far as the dark, horror-based conventions go. As regards to building upon themes and characters for those familiar with the source material, well, that’s a little lacking I found, compared to Christa Faust’s handling of the matter in her earlier book.
A rash of sightings of various phenomena, ranging from a gigantic lizard to a headless horseman, leads to a death which grabs the attention of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester. Shipped out to Clayton Falls, Colorado, with speed by Bobby, the pair soon begin a line of investigation aimed at trying to get to the bottom of what appears to be hallucinations of some kind.
It’s tricky initially to pin down a pattern, other than one of the mildly uncanny, but slowly the puzzle pieces together. Links between otherwise arbitrary sightings become apparent, and it soon becomes clear that what people are experiencing are more like nightmares, only in some cases they’re deadly real. And quite horrific too, given the detailed splatter-punk styling of some of the night terrors upon their victims.
Whilst the writing is competent, in as far as a horror book might be judged, there were several points in Night Terror where I wondered whether the author had actually invoked the spirit of the Winchesters as well as he might’ve. In Coyote’s Kiss, Faust really does make you feel you’re reading an episode that would run naturally between other episodes. The quirks of the brothers, their interplay and relationships, not just with each other but with the music, life of a hunter and so forth.
In Night Terror I got the feeling more often than not that the direction of the brothers was far more nebulous than a fan of Supernatural might prefer. I don’t feel that the author took full ownership of them. That said, Passarella’s knack for writing is clear, as is his enthusiasm for the high-octane: rampage-fuelled encounters spilling into one another in a generally well organised chaos do make for some entertaining reading.
As the enigma behind the strange goings on in Clayton Falls begins to unravel, there’s some satisfaction to be had, but still a feeling that the story is a stand-alone that’s been tacked onto the Supernatural framework.
It’s like the mythology and lore for the paranormal elements is sound, but the characters of Dean and Sam really felt like they were floundering a little. Thus, whilst I’d still recommend this for a read by fans of the show, and think Passarella writes well, a little more attention to detail as regards the characters of the brothers would’ve gone a long way to really fleshing this one out.