1-21 - Book Review: The BURNINGBentley Little
Signet
2006

A college freshman finds herself stranded in Arizona with no place to stay and nowhere to run. Cabin Fever closes in on an isolated park ranger, as two sinister beauties lurk in the desert outside his door. A California divorcée is starting a promising new life. But her young son knows better—because he’s seen what’s creeping outside the window. A cross-country traveler is on a journey of self-discovery. But one tourist trap holds its own dreadful surprises… Four strangers with one thing in common: a mysterious train choking the sky with black smoke, charging trackless across the American night…and carrying an unstoppable evil raised from the bowels of history, that will bring their worst fears to life.

The Burning is the first Bentley Little novel I have read in 2014, and considering it’s three-quarters of the way into the year, this seems odd, also considering I tend to suck down Little’s novels like they were sweet, sweet Hostess treats. And since he tends to write and release a new paperback of his trademark style of unnerving horror yarns, it’s not like there’s a lack of them for me to feed my addiction.

Anyway, I came across The Burning at the usual place where I’ve been supplementing my nasty “reading habit”, namely Half Price Books. Great and wondrous place, that is. Also rather dangerous, considering the prices. And once again, I find myself shilling for the place; I really need to get some sort of endorsement deal out of this. On to the book review.

The Burning deals with the revenge of thousands of Chinese immigrants that were murdered after the completion of the coast-to-coast railroad back after the Civil War. A ghost train is a-chargin’ along, from sea to shining sea, picking up those vengeful souls and sounding like a Johnny Cash ballad; meanwhile, at different points in the country, strange phenomena begin happening: nightmarish specters manifesting, strange mold that causes people to become irrationally racist hate-mongers, bizarre writings, and of course that ghost train mentioned before. In the meantime, a young college student, a divorcee’ mother and her child, a disaffected Chinese young man and a park ranger from different parts of the country find themselves a part of something greater, learning that the past can come back and haunt us, quite literally.

There’s no mistaking that The Burning is a Bentley Little novel. It’s got all the halmarks, really: extraordinarily bizarre situations and supernatural circumstances thrust upon unsuspecting and hapless protagonists, it’s tense and disturbing and viceral horror, with points where you have to pause and think, “did I just read that?” When compared to his other novels, The Burning may not be as great as his more memorable offerings, but it’s not bad, either. It’s a supernatural horror novel that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, and it’s rather good at being it. Not the first book I would recommend to check out if it’s your first time with Bentley Little, but it’s worth checking out.

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