By: Madeline Usher

TITLE:The Redemption of Holly Dobson
Author: C. Lynn Barton

Oh friends, I have had the most terrible time! Roderick has been more agitated and unpredictable than ever. Last week, he chased me through the garden brandishing a cleaver he had stolen from the kitchen. I only escaped with my life because he tripped on a garden bench and twisted his ankle. I ran to my library and have not stirred from this room since.

Roderick stormed about the house for several days and tried to break into the library more than once, but I have taken precautions on safeguarding this room and he went away, howling in frustration.

During my internment, I have had a chance to delve into some volumes for which I have not had time before. I will present two of them here for you.

The first is a piece of horror called The Redemption of Holly Dobson by C. Lynn Barton. I regret to say that the only truly horrifying thing about this book was the writing. The story centers on Holly Dobson, a woman described as having “an understated benevolent evilness.” To this humble reader, though, Holly did not seem interesting enough to possess any evilness, understated or otherwise.

Holly is the adopted daughter of a Texas gambler and her wishy-washy husband. Barton gives us Holly’s background in the first stumbling chapters of the book. Then, we are whisked into Holly’s adult life where she falls for a man named Normal Roberts, a married man with a certain magnetic charm.

Normal’s wife, Kate, dies under mysterious circumstances and, with a wink and smile, Normal has transferred his love to Holly. From nowhere, we learn that Normal is actually Satan and has come to Earth to “end everything good in humanity.” This great end is accomplished, according to Barton, by impregnating Holly with a son.

I will not say more about the plot in the event that someone wishes to read the book for himself—even the worst books have their fans.

However, I would like to give you a taste of this author’s writing, particularly the dialogue:

In this scene, Holly has just gone to a convent for somewhat confusing reasons:

“I am Mother Frances. How may I help you?”
“My name is Holly and I want to become a nun,” I said.
“Come in, my child,” Mother Frances said.
“I am from Texas,” I announced.
“How did you get here?”
“I am visiting my aunt who lives across the highway,” I said.
“Does your family know that you are here?”
“No, I am sixteen, so I can go where I want.”
“Why did you come to the convent?”
“I came here because I want to live with you. I don’t want to live with my Momma anymore,” I cried.
“Dry your tears. We are getting ready for Mass. Will you join us?”

All the dialogue is like this: dry, stilted, and without any flow or characterization. Indeed, each character from Mother Frances to Holly, to Normal Roberts, to a trio of priests, to Holly’s evil son, George, all sound the same. If every dialogue tag were removed, there would be absolutely no differentiation between characters.

While the premise behind The Redemption of Holly Dobson is sound, the execution fails miserably. I think I will slip this volume into Roderick’s collection of books. Perhaps its dry, uninteresting writing will calm him and put him to sleep. If you are interested in horror novels about devil children or Satan’s relations with human beings I would recommend the following:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
A Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The Omen by David Seltzer
Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Now, on to another volume I would like to discuss. This is markedly different from the above selection, both in content and execution. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is a masterful piece of speculation fiction that imagines a United States under the fascist regime of “the Capitol.” This is the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy—The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are the first two in the series--and a worthy ending to the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual ritual where twenty four children are chosen to compete in a brutal gladiator-type contest.

Katniss wins the Hunger Games along with her friend Peeta Mellark. The two try to put the games behind them but brewing revolution and the machinations of the snake-like President Snow continue to reel the pair into a dangerous web of political intrigue. Mockingjay is the culmination of this intrigue and the story of the price that freedom demands.

Suzanne Collins is a gifted writer, who has created a magnificent feast of science fiction, adventure, and thought-provoking philosophy. With just a dash of romance and a few tastes of horror to add spice, the reader is taken on a journey not easily forgotten. Indeed, I was so spellbound by the story that I forgot all about my crazed brother for a few precious hours.

I believe I heard a rumor that some very clever people will be making a moving picture of the first book The Hunger Games. Well, if that is so, they had better do Suzanne Collins justice.

Upon my word! Roderick has somehow found a key to my library; I can hear the lock turning. Goodbye, dear friends! I hope not for good…

About the Columnist

In a gloomy North England mansion, the lady Madeline Usher lives with her brother, Roderick. They are the last of their once great family, the Ushers, noted through the ages as artists and philanthropists. Indeed, Madeline is a writer and celebrated vocalist, often singing the musical pieces composed by Roderick.
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