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I received a copy of The Last Night of October from Greg Chapman for a balanced review.
Gerald Forsythe dreads Halloween. As an old man confined to a wheelchair, he is dependent upon oxygen to help him breathe through bouts of emphysema. He watches the door, waiting, wondering where his nurse is. She was expected to come and switch out his medicines and ensure he will make it through the night. She is late as the clock rolls on; Halloween is coming.
Kelli is a substitute nurse. Gerald’s normal nurse couldn’t make it due to a sudden illness. Kelli, unlike Gerald, loves Halloween and doesn’t understand why the old coot can’t shake a leg and get in the spirit. Kelly opens the door and lets the Halloween spirit into Gerald’s house, as well as a horror from Gerald’s past. Now, they are trapped and need each other if they have any hope for survival.
Greg Chapman writes great horror. Years ago, my second attempt at writing a professional quality book review happened to be with an earlier novella written by Greg Chapman named The Noctuary, and this is my second novella to read of Greg Chapman’s works. I enjoyed The Noctuary, and now reading The Last Night of October shows tremendous growth in Greg’s writing style compared to my earlier read. The Last Night of October was a lighter style of horror than The Noctuary, and might be suitable for young adult readers. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what the measure is, and I don’t read YA so I have nothing to compare.
One of the aspects I noticed was the consistency of the novella’s flow. His earlier work carried the same aspect of writing, but The Last Night of October moved like warm butter over toast. The words rolled right off the paper.
His characterization also jumped considerably from when he’d written The Noctuary. Gerald Forsythe is a cantankerous old man filled with tremendous anxiety and guilt that has haunted him from years past. His own skeletons seem as awful as the shambling horror that has taken over his home. Kelli seems a ditsy girl, oblivious to her patient’s psychological needs, but as she grows in the story it becomes evident she possesses more mettle than waste.
This was a quick read. From cover to cover the novella is barely 100-pages. As you who follow my reviews know, I do not believe there is such a thing as a perfect story. This was a very good story, and anything I say beyond this point that appears negative, do not let it discourage you from reading this awesome novella. The next layer of this review is feedback for the author. He (and you) can decide if my observation is valid or not, and become better at his craft than he already is. It is very possible I’m just a picky reader and I’m being petty. That is strongly possible.
My only discount to The Last Night of October is Gerald Forsythe. He is a mean old man. Sure, he is driven by terror, and I can fully understand how fear can conjure the worst in people, but Gerald is a bit on the rotten side. He’s verbally abusive throughout and at two points he becomes physically volatile. He isn’t much of a good guy. Without spoiling the end, instead of feeling any pity for Gerald, I thought, “Good, serves you right.” If I have any sympathies at the end of this story, it is for Kelli, who might be out of a job and lose her RN license for trying to help a mean old man survive a night of discernible horror.
Again, that might be petty commentary, or maybe this is a valid character observation. It is an interesting ending all the same, but I wonder as a reader, if the ending would have had a stronger punch if I felt more sympathy for Gerald. Maybe we are intended to feel a sense of justice, or retribution, but these feelings might have been stronger if Gerald wasn’t already so rotted by his guilt.
Or…maybe that is the point.