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Gumbywan

Randolph "Dilda" Carter

A rant about books, horror, and the weird.  I sometimes take on my love/hate relationship with goodreads and Amazon.

Currently reading

Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories
Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William Shatner
Progress: 140/336 pages
Pavane
Keith Roberts

After Dark

After Dark - Manly Wade Wellman This is a Silver John novel. Silver John, or John the Balladeer, is a recurring character in Wellman's fiction who serves as a sort of wandering hillbilly/mountain man paranormal investigator. With no fixed abode he wanders the Appalachian mountains looking for opportunities to showcase his singer/songwriter capabilities on his silver strung guitar but ends up having to deal with all sorts of paranormal, and just plain normal, problems for friends he meets in the hills. Fortunately he is carrying around with him a lot of folklore and legend about various supernatural menaces and counter-spells to ward off the evil doers.This oversimplifies Wellman's Silver John oeuvre and you will have to simply read it to get the true feel for Wellman's tale. Uniquely Wellman treats and writes about rural people with dignity and respect. He avoids any of the racist (yes racist) stereotypes that hick, redneck, and hayseed imply. He also is a deeply knowledgeable mountain folklorist. Now to the "haints" in the particular novel. The Shonokins, a remnant of a pre-human but humanoid (maybe) species on earth, are trying to increase their power and influence in the world. They need a certain recalcitrant family's land to complete a power structure they are building and there is a particular jewel that Mr. Ben possesses that they want as well (reason not ever made clear). This is the setup for Silver John to come along and lead in the foiling of the Shonokin's plans. The Shonokins are truly weird. A remnant of a pre-human race, we are never sure if they are really humanoid, they may be shape shifters capable of assuming a human facade, or may be truly human in form. You are never quite sure. They always remain pretty covered up, wearing long coats and gloves even in hot weather, They have cat eyes and a longer ring finger than humans. Although they are weaker during daylight, they are not powerless to go out and do a deed during the day. They possess some level of supernatural power that isn't defined.Sounds like a pretty good setup, right? There are a few problems with the novel that keep it from being in the best of Wellman's fiction. First, not much happens. Most of the time people are standing around talking or Silver John is narrating his thoughts. Most of the menaces encountered John easily defeats. Two, the Shonokins just aren't that scary and powerful, weird yes, but pretty impotent in the end. After all, most of the Shonokins were wiped out long ago by the Native Americans using stone age weapons. They are also pretty weak during the day, but here's the real kicker, they run like a rabbit when they see one of their own dead; can't stand, abhor is more apt, the sight or thought of it (this is never really explained). So if you can pick off one Shonokin you pretty much clear the battlefield. Silver John and the rest know this early in the story and none of them are afraid to exercise their second amendment rights throughout, although to his credit, Silver John only kills as a last resort.There are some grating plot blunders as well. During the climax, the Shonokins, out in the open, call up a storm to root out Silver John and the rest of the people he is defending in Mr. Ben's log house. Torrential rain, wind, hail, lightning. How stupid is this? The unprotected Shonokins call up a storm to force the clan OUT of the cabin, meanwhile suffering the effects unprotected outdoors themselves? Ludicrous. Then they start to move the house about on the foundation. But Silver John and the others know the Shonokins don't want to kill everyone inside. What threat? Frustrated by all the counter-spells in just a few hours (the Shonokins must have the patience of a meth addict), Brooke Altic, the leader of the Shonokins, bursts into the cabin, unarmed, and gets you know what? Blasted. Of course the rest of the Shonokins scatter like fleas from a dead rat and game over.I kept thinking this must get creepier or more thrilling at some point but it never did. A group of school children armed with large sticks and rocks could vanquish a Shonokin horde without taking heavy losses.