“The line between being too careful and not being careful enough is a line you only get to cross once” is a belief Lynnette Tarkington still holds true even 20 years after she survived a Christmas Eve massacre that left her a “Final Girl.” That’s “final girl” as in the last female standing at the end of a serial-killing spree in horror films, but for Lynnette this is no slasher flick… this is her reality.
In The Final Girls Support Group, Grady Hendrix explores the mindset of the now middle-aged Lynnette, whose been unable to live a normal life since her traumatic Yule Tide experience as a teenager. She sees danger around every corner and will go to extreme lengths to protect herself, including barricading herself in her booby-trapped apartment, where she can control her surroundings. Or taking different routes and modes of transportation hours out of her way each time she ventures outside, going so far as to ride the airport shuttle so that potential stalkers won’t be able to ascertain her routine.
In the Washington Irving classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, schoolteacher Ichabod Crane relocates to Sleepy Hollow, where he tries but fails to woo Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of the town’s wealthiest landowner. Instead, his stay is cut short after a terrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman who haunts the quiet New York village. No one knows what became of the schoolteacher after that, but Katrina went on to marry Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, her childhood sweetheart and Crane’s rival for her affections, and the legend of the Horseman prevailed.
Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow picks up with Katrina and Brom more than 30 years after Crane’s mysterious disappearance, but is told from the perspective of their sole grandchild, Ben Van Brunt. To the 14-year-old, there’s nothing better than adventuring in the nearby woods playing Sleepy Hollow Boys, a game glorifying Brom’s youthful exploits. But after the decapitated body of a local boy is found there, Brom warns Ben to stay out of the area, much to the younger Van Brunt’s dismay. Ben is drawn to the forest and would rather do some investigating, especially after another victim is found. Is this the work of the fabled Horseman, who Brom maintains is not real, or is there someone else prowling the woods?
Any long-time reader of fantasy or science fiction knows of Stephen R. Donaldson. Those who have read his works are, more often than not, fans for life. This holds true for myself, at least. I distinctly remember poring over the pages of his Thomas Covenant series, breathless awaiting the next installment as soon as the current book was consumed. And it would be so easy to compare The War Within, this newest book in his current series, The Great God’s War, to those that I loved in the early eighties. But that would not do justice to this new book and the care with which it was created.