By Nicolas Hoffmann
Once again, Matthew Quinn has reached out to me to review his work. The Thing in the Woods has been long developed and discussed with me over the years, and it is interesting to see how it is come to fruition. The style and feel remind me of a lot of Quinn’s other work. The pacing builds and the world is developed over time, thoughtfully and articulately. The Thing in the Woods, is a more personal review for me, since we have discussed this project with Quinn over almost a decade and I am happy with how it has come out.
The format and feel is very like the recent era of sci-fi that it exists in. Not set in an apocalyptic future or deep in space, but based around teenagers in the regular world, not unlike Stranger Things and the like. The basic feel is a simple one; teenagers being teenagers (right down to the hourly wage job at a Best Buy), figuring out relationships and messing with friends, when they stumble across an episode of the X-Files. While riding an ATV out in rural Georgia, a Lovecraftian Horror is discovered, killing off the children. Cult leaders are involved and the whole thing feels very assembled like a very familiar pop-culture story.
Collectively, the book is all over the place for me. It reminds me a lot of scary stories for kids, like Goosebumps (not Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark), or an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. The main character is a high schooler named James who is in love with a girl named Amber. They have quips and jokes and are surrounded by kids that are a who’s who high school stereotypes, the fat kid, the jock, etc. When they come across the mayhem and the cult, that I will not give much away of.
The world of the story varies in its convoluted nature. It has a sense of space, though narrow. Not unlike a horror show single episode. There is no sense of the other people in town and there is a feel of Google maps to the place, where you might live, but not explore the neighborhoods. This keeps the speed of the story light and swift, but means a sequel, like so many horror stories, would require a lot of rebuilding. The monster is given kind of clichéd Native American backstory, but little to how Phillip controlled it, why it worked with white supremacists if the Natives feared it before the “White People came,” but frankly, the mild racism works into the whole Lovecraftian thing.
However, overall the book is fast and fun. It reads quickly and is good for the YA crowd.