"Blanky" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Amazon Digital Services LLC
Written by Kealan Patrick Burke
2017, 73 pages, Fiction
Released on September 12th, 2017
Okay, listen, we need to discuss the word silly and how it relates to horror for a moment. Silly, according to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, means, among other things, "exhibiting or indicative of a lack of common sense or sound judgment." However, when we say something is silly, what we mean is often somewhat mean-spirited. I want that to stop. I want to be able to say things like, "The concept is silly, but what an absolutely astonishing cultural product!" Anyway, the point is this: I started reading Kealan Patrick Burke's Blanky and, after a scene that takes place via FaceTime and involves a creepy death, thought this is amazing and silly and weird. You, in the best, most amazing way possible. Yeah, silly in a way that makes no sense except within the context of that specific narrative. This is not to say that the idea behind the novella is silly; what I want to say is that the premise would soon become a strange joke in less capable hands. In Burke's hands, however, it turns into an eerie, unexpected horror tale wrapped in a larger story dealing with loss and crippling emotional trauma.
Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together and rebuild his life after the tragic death of his young daughter. Nothing makes sense, he feels alone and shattered, and his estranged wife is living with her parents because she can't be inside the house where her worst nightmare went down. To make matters worse, there is no one to blame, no criminal to hang, no thing to punch. In this devastated new landscape, Steve spends his time hurting, watching old sitcoms, crying, and drinking. Then, on a night like any other, he hears a strange sound coming from his daughter's old room, which is now empty and cleansed of anything that could remind her parents of her presence. When he finally gets there, he finds his daughter's security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky. After all the cleaning, finding anything like this would be strange, but this particular item goes beyond strange because Steve's daughter loved that blanket so much, he buried her with it.
The first third of Blanky is all about the endless pain and suffering of a grieving father. The narrative dances between life now and memories, and Burke does a great job of conveying the father's emotions. Then, things get a little better…and then crash down, entering a world that is worse than the nightmare that came before. The writing never changes, but the narrative morphs a few times and eventually becomes an explosion of desperation, anger, uncertainty, and impossible things.
There is no doubt about it: Burke can write. Here, however, he shines even more than usual. There are rich details about the blanket, the house, the crumbling wife-husband relationship, and even Steve's relationship with his in-laws. While that might sound like a lot, the author does all of it at a great pace and keeping in mind that books of this length, barely 73 pages, need to entertain, titillate, and surprise before space runs out, and all of that happens here. In that regard, and this is something that can also be seen in the author's previous books, Burke demonstrates that he belongs to that select group of horror authors that have a deep understanding of economy of language and have refined the art of delivering a devastating punch in a limited space.
The best part of Blanky is that it is an uncomfortable read. There are too many heroes in horror fiction that want to kill the monster as soon as it shows up. In this narrative, we start with a broken man and then watch as he enters a dark, scary world where he loses even more and flirts with insanity. This is a welcome change, and only one of the reasons why you should grab your favorite blanket and snuggle in the sofa with this book as soon as possible.