Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A review of Robert McCammon's THE FIVE

Reading Robert McCammon’s book The Five reminded me of the book Silver On The Tree. I don’t why because for the life of me I can’t remember the plot of Silver On The Tree. I was going to look it up and answer this question first, but thought better of it. Suffering from severe attention deficit hyperactive disorder. I have learned to let stuff slide.  So even though I don’t remember the plot, I do remember it was written by Susan Cooper. Not bad considering I read this in the late seventies! But The Five brought it back, or more accurately a memory I associate with Silver On The Tree.
I was probably 14 or 15 when I read Silver On The Tree. With severe ADHD reading was an escape and one I desperately needed. I read a library of books! But the focus of this review is The Five. So why did enjoying The Five bring this back?  I get this is a review and so I can’t give away too much.  When I was a kid my Dad had installed a motion light out back of our house. In the late seventies these were pretty rare. It came on with the passing of every large cat, a cruel joke for a kid with ADHD. We had been hit with a huge ice storm and I remember the tree directly behind my window had turned silver. On this night the light had come on collecting my attention and I looked out trying to see what had moved. It was a common game, I would see the neighbour’s cat or a bird and lay back and go to sleep. But on this day I remember seeing nothing but movement not looked at directly. That is to say I could see shadows dance on the trunk of the tree but only if I did not look directly at them. It was weird, and so I went to investigate. I slipped out into the cold in just my socks and underwear to see what was there.  It never gets really cold in BC but that night was frigid past the frozen ice on the tree. It bit, and froze breath to your lips.  Looking up into this ancient tree, I saw nothing. The shadows that had called me down were gone. Replacing them was a feeling, a terror as the seconds slid forward. Something was just on the other side of the tree, it didn’t like me, and it wanted me. I didn’t want to look around that tree either. I had come down to look. Had never before been afraid to look at anything! I was a teenager and as such was indestructible. I knew, just knew, that a monster real and deadly was on the other side of that tree. The knowledge of this was crushing me in place, forcing me to stand and stretch the frozen moments with it.
I sprinted past the tree, eyes shut, hands like claws outstretched before me. I remember being very surprised by this response. Thinking to myself I had just done the worst possible thing I could do, faced with a monster behind a tree.  I hit the back fence and turned around, opening my eyes for the first time. Nothing! I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. A very odd emotional conundrum and one I wouldn’t feel again until my first wife asked for a divorce.
The Five has been compared to Boys Life. A fair comparison in some ways yet not quite a right fit. I remembered reading Boys Life in hardcover before it was on the shelves in Canada. A relative brought it up from the States, knowing I loved McCammon’s books. I read it, jacket off, as usual and having never read the teaser had no idea where the story was going to take me. I kept waiting for the monster. I had no idea of the trials and tribulations the Author was having. I didn’t know he wanted to write outside of the ‘horror proper’. I was a kid that loved McCammon’s scary stories. It was probably one of the better-written books I had read and I moved on genre-wise with the author.
But truth be told, I wanted another scary story. I am 45 and I have wanted that scary story for 20 years. The Five was worth the wait! It isn’t ‘horror proper’, it’s better! Natural and supernatural forces woven so skillfully, that you can view this story from many different angles.  It is made scarier by what you bring to the reading. Just like that dark frozen night so many years ago in my backyard. The masterly written book takes you on a Rock Bands journey and so much more. The journey is so realistic that it makes the supernatural side much more believable. A brilliant Creepy and satisfying, work of fiction, written by a master. Dare I say “The”!

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