Geddy’s Moon by John Mulhall
Genre: Adult Horror
Publisher: Blanket Fort Books
Release date: February 20 2013
Source: e-book from publisher
In a word: A terrifying and ambitious first novel, a mystery that slowly unveils itself, a monstrous baddie that scared even me, with a surprisingly poignant coming-of-age element.
For a moment, Joel found himself involuntarily curling into a ball, grabbing his knees, pulling them to his chest. The action almost immediately infuriated him. It was a child’s response. And this creature, slowly emerging in front of him, overtaking Seth Devon, had stolen his ability to be a child. That was gone, and would probably never return.
OK, I’ll admit I learned about this book through my husband, who was hired to shoot the author’s photo for the book jacket. (And it’s a brilliant photo, I must say!) I’ve generally stopped taking on indie book projects, just because I’m usually disappointed and rant at myself later for wasting time when I could be reading books I know I’ll love. But Geddy’s Moon has a lot going for it, and I’m so glad I took the chance to read it. The finished product is gorgeous, and Mulhall clearly spared no expense and has a polished and professional book to show for it. From the professional cover design to the perfectly proofread interior (I’m a proofreader, and I don’t think I saw a single error), this book looks and feels like it came from one of the big publishing houses. While the story isn’t perfect, and I’ll get to that in a bit, for a first novel I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and I could see all the hard work that Mulhall put into his novel.
The story starts with a mystery: a man who calls himself Tyler has just wandered into the town of Geddy’s Moon with no memory of who he is and what he’s doing there. After a librarian named Taryn gives him a book called The Moat, his memory rushes back. He is actually the author of the book and his real name is Joel Logan. The book tells the story of what happened to three boys one summer when something evil came to town and started killing people. And now that Joel remembers everything, he also remembers that every word in the book is true.
The next part of the story takes place in California, in a small town called Fairview Park during the summer when Joel was twelve, the summer that a man named Seth came to town and people started dying. Joel and his best friends Rick and Tommy want nothing more than to fill their summer with carefree days, playing near the woods in a cement-filled area they nickname “The Moat.” But when both Joel and Rick begin to have dreams about a bear-like creature named Simon who warns them that someone is trying to kill them, their summer takes a decidedly dangerous turn, and the boys must use their imagination and wits to figure out how to stop this menace.
When I called this book ambitious, I wasn’t kidding. Mulhall packs so many things into just under five hundred pages that you may be tempted to take notes when you read it. This is not a straightforward narrative. The story jumps from present to past to present and back again, and each section reveals a little bit more of the mystery of who Seth is and how he got that way. Mulhall smartly begins and ends the book in the present day, which makes all the disparate elements make sense. I think my favorite section was the one where we see Joel as a boy, hanging out with his friends and bemoaning the end of childhood (high school is just around the corner). It reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s The Body, another story that shows that growing up is inevitable, and one horrific event can be the catalyst that propels you into adulthood. Joel and his friends must step out of their comfort zones to stop Seth from killing, and boy it ain’t easy.
Which brings me to the character of Seth. What was interesting about this story, and what made it go on longer than perhaps it should have, was that Seth just keeps coming back. I won’t give any spoilers about the kind of creature Seth is, but let’s just say he’s very hard to kill. He was truly evil and frightening, and my heart raced every time he made an appearance. Even worse, Seth holds a grudge, a terrifying fact that comes into play later in the story. But the boys aren’t helpless against him. The creature that appears in Joel’s dreams is telling him how to defeat Seth, and when Mulhall gives the reader Simon’s back story and explains his relationship with Seth, pieces of the puzzle will start falling into place.
Mulhall adds yet another section to the book involving a scientist named Tuck who has been searching for proof of shape-shifting animals. When a strange skull is dug up near The Moat, Tuck believes he’s found the proof he’s been looking for. This section was interesting because it suggested that the U.S. government might have nefarious uses for the skull, and in fact something very important takes place during this part of the story. But my one complaint about Geddy’s Moon would be that it felt too long, and this was one of those places that would have benefited from more editing. The author ties all five sections together and makes each event seem critical to the story, no matter how random it appears, but tighter editing and perhaps shaving fifty or so pages off the book would have made this story even better.
But I loved the emotional journey that Joel, Rick and Tommy take as they realize how scary the world can be. Some bad things happen in Geddy’s Moon, and the boys must grow up fast during that last summer of innocence. Rick in particular was one of my favorite characters, a boy who is living with abuse at home (by his father) but putting on a brave face in front of his friends. The part he plays in the final showdown was heartbreaking.
If you love your horror with lots of story layers, then you’ll love Geddy’s Moon. Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
I’m going to be interviewing John soon, and I have a copy of Geddy’s Moon to give away! So stay close, people!