Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Schreibers

There are two horror novelists whose books I avidly await. The first is Sarah Langan and the second is Joe Schreiber. Both write spooky stories that disturb not by creating revolting images, but by creating moods and suggesting terrible things. They are young and have just a few (solid) books to their credit, but Schreiber has two new books out. The books are in different genres, so I expected some variation, but I found the differences between them to be startling.

One book, Death Troopers, has a immediately engaging concept, but a weak payoff. The other, No Doors, No Windows, has one of the most hackneyed of concepts, but is riveting throughout. In Death Troopers, an Imperial prison barge investigates and abandoned Star Destroyer and finds it occupied by space zombies. Sounds cool, but doesn't go anywhere. No Doors, No Windows is a haunted house story about a hard luck family and the gothic horrors of small towns. It's been done a million times, but Schreiber's characters, plot peculiarities, pacing and writing rise to the top.

Death Troopers has weak characterization, relies on the Star Wars universe to carry much of the background and is marred by far too much exposition. No Doors, No Windows has a number of interesting characters, some cliched to be sure, but symphatheically and often surprisingly handled. The difference in the writing is just shocking. It feels lifeless in Death Troopers, while vigorous in No Doors, No Windows. Sadly, I think that Death Troopers might be the future of Schreiber's books (he already has a prequel in the works.)

Death Troopers has a sales rank of 430, while No Doors No Windows has a rank of 89,965 (as of this writing). I can't blame him if he churns out more of these Star Wars books. My only hope is that the people who find him thanks to Star Wars move on (and buy) his much better horror books.

No comments: