Top critical review
A Subplot Masquerading as a Novella
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 13, 2020
This rather thin offering is deceptive in several ways: (1) the cover, with its interesting artwork featuring a pale tree with bloody-thumbprint leaves, seemed to promise a sinister, elegant mystery within its pages and (2) the back cover synopsis, which actually consists of a quote directly from the text, was just enough to intrigue me and reel me in. But regrettably, there wasn’t much of a mystery to actually delve into…and there really wasn’t much of a story, either.
Without going into detail, “Out Behind the Barn” is a watered down, exsanguinated zombie/resurrection tale that is, at this point in the genre, a tired trope. It isn’t strong or interesting enough to stand on its own. That means, then, that there are two options for a work like this one: first, it can serve as literary “filler” in an uneven anthology that contains stories about possessed chainsaws, haunted strip clubs, and bodybuilding vampire-cops or, second, it can serve as a thin subplot in a larger work that is lengthier than itself.
To be fair, it’s not a bad story. And it’s not a great one, either. The writing is somewhere between Adequate and Good; it’s readable and manages not to fall into the Bottomless Pit of Amateurish Purple Prose that horror stories sometimes find themselves plunging down. That is why I awarded it two stars instead of the usual “one star” rating that I tend to give to memoirs by reality TV stars or truly worthless pseudo-novels ("Twilight", for example).
Immediately after finishing this ultra-short offering, I found myself craving a variety of doorstop novels that contained the darker imagery and visceral details that were lacking here. Having said that, you could do worse. But why bother when they are heftier, meatier, and more layered potboilers to chose from?