Hey kids!! I know, I know. It has been far too long. So here goes…
First Rule of Book Club? Don’t open that box! J. Parypinski’s PANDORA
There’s something in the basement of Maria’s new house—something dark and primeval that made the previous owner commit suicide. It has infected the town of Sickle Falls, giving its inhabitants nightmares of a dark, fanged spirit that thirsts for blood. When Maria finds a mysterious ivory box buried in the bowels of her house, she must unearth its secrets before whatever is inside escapes and destroys them all.
So yesterday I handed over control of the AxelHowerton.com channel to an incredible young writer by the name of Joanna Parypinski. I met Jo last year, as one of the hundred-some authors involved in the inaugural COFFIN HOP. As the year progressed and the group began working on the upcoming Coffin Hop: Death By Drive-In anthology (Due September 2013). Miss Parypinski won me over with her story submission for that book – a tale of empowered femininity and bravery in the face of a chaotic machine-on-a-rampage slaughterhouse – and later proved herself an excellent editor as well.
Suffice it to say, I was quite interested to see what her debut novel held in store, and was first in line to grab a copy when it dropped. Hot damn, was I glad I did.
PANDORA is the kind of book King and McCammon and the like used to write in the 80′s, the kind of book that made horror the go-to genre it has become. I have no doubt that there will be endless comparisons to King, as there are with most emerging horror writers, but Parypinski has earned it. This book is well-crafted and planned out, with the kind of scattered-seed style of character introduction favored by the aforementioned legends. Written in a loose 3rd person narrative, PANDORA follows a hopelessly depressed almost-Chef named Maria Vorkos and her schoolteacher husband, Chris, as they move to the small rural town of Sickle Falls. Chris’ parents live an hour or two away, and are hardly on familiar terms with the young couple, who are trying to start over after a tragedy that has left Maria haunted and closed-off. They move into a mysterious house that was home to an unfortunate and unusual suicide and an accidental death, both of which seem to have something to do with the ornate ivory box Maria finds walled up in the basement.
The book moves on to include the bullied teenage boy down the street; the famous author who lives on the other side of town; the stricken town priest; and a maniacal serial killer who believes they are the personification of biblical justice. The book also folds in historical accounts of the previous holders of the mysterious box, and a plethora of references to some very interesting Greek mythology and ancient theology.
It is an exciting, enthralling and highly imaginative read, full of horrific situations, hallucinations and descriptions. There are a myriad of horrible deaths, nasty bullies and varied stripes of evil. The characters have depth and common sense (the ones that aren’t driven completely mad, anyways) and, while there are some (fairly insignificant) flaws and minor gopher holes, this is as good of a horror-thriller as I have read in many a year. It is far better than pretty much anything I read during my tenure at a to-remain-unnamed horror digest or as a reviewer for a couple of top-tier publishers. As I mentioned, it not only reminded me of old Stephen King and Robert R. McCammon classics, it gave me the exact same feeling of immersive enjoyment; the same overarching dread as the story played out; the same concern for the main characters and nagging, incessant, undying desire to know WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED AFTER THE LAST PAGE? WHAT! WHAT!
That, to me, is the hallmark of an expert storyteller, and Joanna Parypinski is certainly on the fast-track to that title. For a horror-thriller from a small press, this is really great work. For a first novel from someone Parypinksi’s age, this is amazing. She is most definitely a talent to watch, and there is no question that she will be a name to reckon with very, very soon. Good work, kid, and good luck!
The rest of you… PICK IT UP!!!