Wildwood Road by Christopher Golden

 Christopher Golden paints a realistic picture of a normal couple thrust into an unfortunate encounter with a dark and supernatural force in his latest page-turner, Wildwood Road. Our normal couple is Michael and Jillian Dansky, Michael graphic artist and his wife Jillian a paralegal, with hopes of running for city council. As the novel opens, life for the couple is wonderful and things look to be on a nice upswing for them. They are partying with friends at a Halloween masquerade party, Michael relaxing with a Guinness and Jillian taking in more alcohol than she normally would. As they are preparing to leave the party, Michael feels he is sober enough to drive home, and at the very least, he is more sober than his wife. When a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said person may be more susceptible to extraordinary, or even supernatural experiences.On the way home and in between extended blinks, Michael almost runs over a strange little girl, whom he discovers is named Scooter. This strange little girl brings Michale into a dark, supernatural event that forever changes life for him and his wife Jillian. He gets out of the car and helps Scooter home, or what seems to be her home, a dark house in the middle of nowhere. Michael begins to hear voices and sense things very much out of the ordinary as he travels with Scooter. Michael eventually blacks out and wakes up in the morning to police knocking on his car window.

All of this happens in the first 40 pages, and from there, Golden takes the reader on a dark journey revealing more details both about Michael and Jillian as well as the apparitions Michael encountered. As the days pass, Michael continues to hear pleas of help from Scooter, he is continually compelled to help her. Dark figures he saw near the abandoned mansion threaten Michael and warn him to keep his distance, lest Michael’s wife become a victim. The first thing Golden did in this novel to properly set the mood and tone is ground it in a believable sense of reality. The character and situation (man enjoying a beer at a party) we first see Michael in is recognizable, it is familiar. As the novel unfolds and the dark specters Michael encountered in the opening scenes of the novel invade his life, the sense of familiar erodes. However, an effective way Golden manages to keep the novel grounded in reality, despite the supernatural events affecting the Danskys, is the interspersing of events in Michael and Jillian’s life prior to the masquerade party, primarily the courtship and early years of their relationship. By doing this, Golden effectively paints a relationship of genuine care and love. Conversely, the terror Michael feels as this wonderful relationship and life seemingly is slipping away is palpable and plausible.

I found both Michael and Jillian to be empathetic characters, perhaps because they reminded me a bit of my wife and I. Either way, the picture Golden paints of this couple is of one comfort and, for the most part, happiness in the life they have lived. The pacing of the story is just right, too. Golden balances the thrilling scenes of the time of the story with scenes of the past very well. It proves for an emotional roller coaster, but also effectively portrays the urgency of Michael’s mission to save his wife. This novel kept me engaged throughout, and kept the need to find out what happened next of utmost importance.

The genre this novel falls into is not a singular genre, it has qualities of many, but most specifically Thriller and Dark Fantasy. Many would classify this a Thriller, based on the urgency of Michael’s plight, others a Dark Fantasy based on the threat of the supernatural. Wildwood Road has elements of both, and would likely appeal to fans of both types of novels. Reading this novel, in terms of the characters and the cloud of ever-present darkness reminded me quite a bit of Graham Joyce’s Dark Sister, a novel I very much enjoyed. As for Golden’s, I really enjoyed Wildwood Road as well and would recommend it without reservation.

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© 2005 Rob H. Bedford


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