“Dark Harvest” by Norman Partridge

What’s that you say?

A living scarecrow with a flaming pumpkin for a head gets stuffed with candy every Halloween and is set loose on a small Midwestern town where every boy aged 16 to 19 is armed to the teeth and wandering the streets in a tradition called The Run, each one wanting to be the one to bring down the scarecrow before midnight.

Sure, why not?

Dark Harvest

 

It’s sort of like The Lottery, but with a sentient scarecrow.  Dark Harvest is chilling and poignant, and more about humanity than it is about scares.  The darkness is human darkness in this little town.  We don’t know where it comes from or why, but it manifests in a living scarecrow who must be destroyed.  There’s no sense of reason, just like in The Lottery.  Just the violence and the lack of humanity that very few in the town can bring themselves to counter.  With good reason, of course–small-town politics are forceful and all-reaching, particularly when your roots are very deep.

I like that you don’t get a full explanation of what the Halloween tradition is all about.   You never learn exactly why it happens, nor what will happen if the night doesn’t go as usual.  The ending hints at what will become of the town, but like all good horror, it’s open and contains a hint of threat.   Yet, unlike a lot of horror, there’s still a hopefulness which matches the more poignant sections of the book.

This was a quick read with a nice pace, never lingering too long on anything.  Only just enough to scare you or move you or make you wince.  Like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone or The X-Files, you get immersed in the story and the creepiness and the exploration of all too human tendencies.  With a few eerie twists.

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