“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

So I actually won this audiobook in a Booklikes giveaway, because free books. It’s not at all the kind of thing I’d usually read (horror is scary and doesn’t let you sleep at night), but free books. Always jump at the chance for free books.

As it turned out, there was a very good reason Crawl was being given away for free. It’s a “novelette” (because novellas are so last year, apparently) about a woman named Juliet who’s being driven to her mother’s house by her unfaithful husband when they’re involved in a car accident which winds up being very weird indeed.

The main problem with Crawl is that it almost feels like a story of two parts. The first 25% or so is carefully-built, if a little cliched, backstory tracing the breakdown of a marriage. But then that painstaking character development is kind of forgotten in a mire of random creepy stuff including priests dressed in red and scary rustlings in the woods. It’s almost as if Lorn started writing one of those awful “family saga” novels you see in WHSmith, then got bored and decided to do horror instead.

Even after it’s settled comfortably into horror territory the story is sketchy and underexplained. What is the creepy thing in the woods? What does the red priest want? These questions are never answered, and it feels like a lot of the story is missing. The ending, too, is inconclusive: it’s clearly meant to shock, and leave you with that creepy, cliffhanger-y feeling you get from good episodes of The Twilight Zone, but really it’s just one of those “Huh?” moments that leaves you wondering what the point of all this was.

It’s not even that scary. Admittedly, I was internet-surfing at the time, and therefore not paying the utmost attention, but I am very easily creeped out. To me, Crawl was more bizarre than scary.

Oh, and Maria Hunter’s reading was just awful: melodramatic and breathy and downright annoying. At one point, Juliet thinks that “She sounded like a horror movie cliche”, and the thing is, she’s not wrong. In that sense, Hunter was the perfect reader for this book, which, like the worst horror movies, offered horror for the sake of horror, darkness for the sake of darkness, without any actual coherent story. That’s Crawl in a nutshell: a cliche. It’s possible that horror aficionados might enjoy it more. But, for me, it was a miss.

(Free, though. So it’s not all bad.)

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