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Open Evening by Lee Hall #BookReview

Sometimes you don’t get to choose where you are placed in the collective ecosystem of a high school.

Luke Hartford spends his days on the fringes of social inadequacy. A normal day at his small town American High School can be described as horrific. That is until events take a turn for the worse. After a vision, Luke realises there is something other than the horror of trying to fit in lurking just under the surface.

A mysterious stranger arrives in town and the teachers are acting weirder than normal. Soon enough Luke and an unlikely team of allies must fight their way towards survival, even if they don’t really know who to trust. The question is, who will survive the Open Evening?

“If I can see you, they can see you.”

Open Evening by Lee Hall book cover

Title: Open Evening | Author: Lee Hall | Publisher:  Independent| Pub. Date: 21 September 2016 | Pages: 332 | ASIN: B01M07N4SA | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: The author provided a copy for review purposes

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Open Evening Review

“Write what you know” is the stale dish served to countless aspiring writers when they order advice. By this false standard, Robert Heinlein must once have fought giant insects on alien worlds and Mary Shelley must have tried her hand in animating a monster comprised of dead body parts. Yet Heinlein served in the US Navy and Shelley must have longed to resurrect the mother she, shortly after her birth, lost.

Perhaps “write what you know” refers to understanding the feelings, rather than directly experiencing the events. In his debut novel, “Open Evening”, Lee Hall writes what he knows: the subjective experience of formal education, and the familiar routine of small-town horror.

Lee Hall knows school, he is familiar with its artificial social structure and demeaning pecking order. School is his conduit for his other preoccupation, cliched horror. More of the story should have been spent expounding on the first than dwelling on the second.

Hall kicks the story off with the protagonist, Luke’s clairvoyant nightmare and follows up immediately with that vision’s realisation. Luke positions himself near, though not quite, at the bottom of his school’s “social ladder”, he has a class-clown best friend and an unattainable love interest. Luke is trapped in a social stalemate until the diablo ex machina occurs and his high school is set upon by a coven/pack/swarm of vampire-like creatures, gifting him the opportunity to prove himself and, as the author continually phrases it, “get the girl”.

The girl is a passive entity, free of personality, who is consigned to the tiresome cycle of being captured and rescued. Unfortunately, she is not the story’s only weakness. The origins of the ravenous creatures are never fully explained, nor are they deliberately hidden. We readers need only accept that they exist, that they have always existed, and get on with it. The author presents the story through the first-person viewpoint of Luke, but it is a story we have read and seen before. Hall channels Count Orlok as goblin-headed monsters control and convert teachers and authorities. Human-eaters hide under the population’s collective nose as they feast upon the student body and townsfolk.  

Hall presents every crowd favourite archetype, the lovable loser, damsel in distress, alpha-male jock, perverted janitor, jaded veteran, determined law enforcement officer, corrupt mayor, and apathetic head teacher (principal). The teachers are in cahoots with the monsters – of course they are.

The writing style is, perhaps deliberately, sophomoric. Here is a tale narrated by a teenage boy. Yet through the dangling participles, weak language, and non sequiturs (monsters slaughter units of armed forces yet consistently fail to deal with three teenagers), we find a story that is pleasing in its simplicity and that does not fall into the trap of taking itself seriously. However, the narrative window is streaked by too much of the author.

Experienced readers of science fiction and horror may struggle to make it through the Scooby Doo scenario and predictable plot, but others may find charm in a self-proclaimed social outcast who wishes only to be a hero.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inHorror Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews
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