In the Valley of the Sun: A Novel by Andy Davidson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The best way to describe this book is a mixture of Thomas Harris and Stephen King. I think that if you’re a fan of those writers, you’ll love this book.
However, I am not the biggest fan of either writer, because I’m not a very big fan of the horror genre. I read this book for my book club, since the author is the husband of a former professor of mine and my book club is run by another former professor. So, while it isn’t a book I would have chosen for myself, I read it, and even though I do really think that fans of horror will love this book, I have to review it as it was for me.
To begin with, I will say, as far as positives go, being the kind of book that’s a fast read, never boring, and keeps you interested is definitely a plus. I had to slog my way through the last book I read, and this one was 100 pages longer and took me not even half the time to read. The writing style reminds me a lot of Thomas Harris, and while I wasn’t in love with either book, I did enjoy Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. The content, however, feels very Stephen King. Very western meets horror.
The negatives are pretty straightforward: I just didn’t care. I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were real enough to care what happened to them. There’s so much backstory alluded to that is intended to give them dimensions, but I still just felt like it wasn’t enough. It kind of felt like how on scary movies, you find out the cop has just had a baby and then he dies. The information only exists to make us give half a crap about them, but it never works for me. We learn some stuff about Travis and his past, but not enough to really explain anything except why he’s killing women, and even that’s only stuff that’s really alluded to, not stuff that’s made a big deal of. Which I’m sure is the intention, not to drag us down with unnecessary backstory, but for me, it just means I don’t really care about him or why he kills women. The same goes for Rue. We have so little information on Rue and no reason to care one way or the other about her. Annabelle and Sandy have a bit more going for them, which again, I think is probably the intent, but even then, it’s one of those “I don’t want them to die because they’re good people” things, not because I CARE about them.
And when it comes to Reader, was he really necessary? I liked him, probably more than anybody else, but if he was removed entirely from the story, it would still work out the exact same way, which to me makes me wonder why he’s there other than to give someone else to kinda-sorta root for even though he has no point in being there. It kind of reminds me of the thing about the director’s wife in Silence of the Lambs. What even was that storyline supposed to do for us in regards to the rest of the story? So while I liked Reader and enjoyed his parts probably more than I did any others, I still just don’t really care about him in the grand scheme of things.
However, please do remember, as I said in the beginning of this review, I’m not a fan of the horror genre. These things probably all work if you are a fan of the genre, but I’m not. I like a good mystery, which this doesn’t really have. I love a good romance, which this definitely doesn’t have. I like a good suspense, which, still, this really doesn’t have since we saw what was coming each time it came. Basically, my point is, I think this works very well as a straight-up horror genre novel, which is exactly why it doesn’t work for me.
I give it 3*s because I liked the pacing and the writing style, and because I feel bad giving it a 2* when I know the only reason I didn’t like it is because I don’t like this genre. If you are a fan, by all means, read it! It’s probably one you’ll love, love, love.
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