When I first started reading novels as a young teen, I started by raiding the Stephen King section of the public library. I didn't know he was a horror guy when I started but I learned pretty quickly. Because of that, any time I read something in the Horror genre I inevitably compare it to King's macabre sensibilities.
But he has set the standard, for the most part, by which other authors are compared. When I started reading The Masks of our Fathers by Barry Napier, I mentally cleansed my palette. I wanted to try and approach the story with no real expectations. Napier is an independent author putting himself out there and it would be incredibly unfair to compare him off the bat to King.
But a funny thing happened as I started to delve into the tale of Jason Melhor, Napier's protagonist.
I started to get that creepy King vibe.
The mentally unbalanced main character, the desolate setting of a cabin in the back woods, a sinister pervasive malevolence in the air, all of it. Not so much in terms of the narrative, it wasn't like I suddenly wondered if I was reading a lost King novel. This was more in the area of ambiance. While not as intrinsically detailed as King is, Napier begins to craft, in his own way, a dark brooding story of a young man determined to exercise the demons of his youth with a single bullet. While it takes a little while for Napier to find his inner Stephen King - in terms of building the tension and eliciting that fear - I still managed to sink into the story.
There where times when I wondered if the character was hallucinating or if things were really happening to him. As I got deeper, the surreal horrors got more tangible and Napier starts to find his groove. I started to care whether or not Jason was going to make it and the best part was that I found myself unable to tell if he would or not. By the end of the story you can't help but to find yourself tied to the emotions of young Jason Mehlor. Some of the story lost me a little at the end but it was never enough to ruin the pace. Sy Fy would do themselves a favor by optioning this work instead of the usual drivel they roll out on their Saturday night movie of the week.
From a technical standpoint I have to say that this is probably one of the most tightly edited independent novels I have read. I could probably count the errors on one hand. I've read some great stories where I got kicked out of the story by a glaring grammatical or spelling error. It happens - I've done it myself but it was nice to read an independent work this polished.
In the end, Napier tells a well crafted story that keeps you guessing. I could have used a little more detail in some areas, building the tension through the narrative, but overall I was creeped out early and often.
One of the best reasons to read independent authors it the hope that you will discover that diamond in the rough. Napier is more polished than that. A worthwhile read for certain and an author I will definitely look forward to reading again.