Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement, and one that I have yet to make. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Renee Pawlish’s “Nephilim genesis of evil,” a supernatural-horror story which I finished reading this morning.
Characters: The story follows New York paranormal writer/investigator Rory Callahan to the isolated town of Taylor Crossing, tucked away in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. This time the investigation is personal. Renee does a good job of showing the troubled mental state that causes Rory to simply pack up and head for the hills.
At Taylor Crossing, Renee introduces a handful of well-drawn characters. Renee is a Colorado resident, and her small-town mountain people have the ring of truth. I lived several years in Boulder and prowled many of the Front Range’s small towns. People such as feisty old Myrtle Hester, and aging hippies Douggie and Pamela Henderson DO live and breathe, in both reality and Renee’s book.
Plot: An evil force that decimated the town’s population in the 1880s has returned. Rory and a rapidly dwindling group of town-people must first figure out what’s happening, then try to survive it.
Settings: The story takes place in the little fictional town of Taylor Crossing and in the surrounding forests. Renee does a nice job with description of the pines and aspens of the lower elevations of the Indian Peaks. I also liked how she ties the setting to Rory’s feeling of apprehension:
“As his eyes wandered over the landscape, he felt a familiar hint of unease, as if the cold of the gray and distant peaks washed down the mountains, invading the lake and him.”
What I thought could’ve been done better: The “evil force” might have been done with a little more clarity. Frequently, Renee’s characters feel bursts or blasts of “pure evil.” What exactly is that like? Cold and shivery? Hot flash? Stinky? Does it make the character feel scared? Evil is an abstract term and must be detailed in terms of sensory description — touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing — for it to have impact on the reader — this reader, anyway.
Renee could also have shown a little more about what was at stake for her characters. She lets us know something’s happening, but how worried we should be is not very clear. A glimpse of something specific at the beginning of the book into what happened to the town in 1880 might crank up the worry-factor for readers. Cranking up the worry-factor is a horror/suspense writer’s main job.
Renee tells us people disappeared in 1880. That’s all the characters need to know, but a short prologue for the readers, showing something horrible in the 1880 events, would give a much-needed ominous foreshadowing, since we know those events are lining up to happen again.
What I thought was good: The Nephilim — great, original bad guys, from the Old Testament. Much as we all love zombies and vampires, these obscure beings from the distant biblical past were an interesting departure. Spooky as they were, Gino, the abusive father and husband was really scary.
Cliff-hanger chapter endings, snappy dialogue, active voice and vivid verbs all keep the story chugging along. Most characters have at least some back-story.
Renee doesn’t hesitate to put her characters in interesting spots. As a former spelunker, I enjoyed Rory having to feel his way through a pitch-dark mine tunnel to escape the bad guys.
Overall: So who writes a perfect story? I can recommend “Nephilim genesis of evil” as a creepy, diverting Stephen King-esque read. Good job Renee!
Happy literary trails!