"Supernatural: Night Terror" Book Review
Written by John Passarella
2011, 381 pages, Fiction
Released on September 13th, 2011
Taking place during season six (of the TV show), between the episodes Frontierland and Mommy Dearest, Supernatural: Night Terror finds the Winchester brothers in Clayton Falls, Colorado, investigating a strange series of events. The town drunk claims a giant Gila Monster chased him into a dumpster, then mysteriously disappeared. A group of kids are hunted down by a headless horseman, then one is mowed down by a driverless car. Giant spiders hunt down human prey, a Nazi zombie invasion threatens, giant sinkholes appear out of nowhere and more. The boys certainly have their hands full with this one, and they need to hurry to find the cause because things are escalating by the hour.
Back in July, in my review of Supernatural: Coyote's Kiss, I mentioned that novels based on movies or TV shows generally have this feel that they were written for the quick buck. However, I was genuinely pleased with Coyote's Kiss as it had a rock solid author in Christa Faust and she was obviously a fan of the show because all of the idiosyncrasies between Sam and Dean were found in the book. This was one that definitely busted through the norm of fan fiction.
So when Night Terror arrived in my mailbox, I had high hopes for it. Since Coyote's Kiss was so enjoyable, I figured Titan Books cared about the reader first and wasn't out for the money-grab as much as it was out to release a quality book. In addition, Night Terror is scribed by John Passarella, a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel for his book Wither. Hot damn. While I have not read Wither, I do put a lot of faith in Bram Stoker winners. So needless to say, my expectations were high. Did the book deliver? Well, yeah. Kind of.
For all intents and purposes, John Passarella has written a damn fine novel here with Night Terror. From page one, the book moves at a breakneck speed, barely slowing down until the end. Part of it is certainly that there is always something going on. There's the aforementioned monsters (plus more) constantly posing a threat to either the townspeople or the brothers (or both) and when people aren't dying or avoiding death, Sam and Dean are rushing to find the root of the problem. In addition to keeping the action levels high, Passarella also manages to inject some very creepy moments into the book; most notably the spider attack. That part in the book definitely freaked me out, as Passarella pulled no punches in his description of both the giant arachnid and the fun it had with its victim.
Also, Passarella creates an interesting villain in what is behind the events in Clayton Falls. Certainly it would have been easy to make it just a zombie novel or vampire or witch or any other dime-a-dozen supernatural freak, but he went the extra mile and dug up a very cool antagonist for Night Terror. So cool, in fact, I ended up googling to find a bit more about this beast.
However, for all the fun that this book is, it's apparent that Passarella either doesn't watch much Supernatural or isn't that big a fan to capture the nuances of Sam and Dean. The banter the brothers have is sorely missing from this novel as well as much mention of music. Hell, Dean's love of bad food is barely brought up. Admittedly, I don't go looking for the elder sibling's choice of diet in each Supernatural episode, nor am I really expecting a lot of description on what's on the radio of the Impala, but the dialogue the Winchesters share is a very important part of the show and it's just as important to make sure that finds its way into the books based on it.
This is not to say I didn't enjoy Supernatural: Night Terror. On the contrary. The book has motivated me to read more of Passarella's work. However, it does make it a pisser to grade. On one hand, if you combine Dean and Sam into one character, call him Sean, put it outside of the Supernatural universe and you have yourself a four star book. On the other, since this is supposed to be part of the Supernatural universe, hardcore fans — the ones more likely to buy this — will find themselves a bit disappointed because there is just too much of the show missing for a book based on it, so for that it gets two-and-a-half stars. Let's just split the difference, give the edge to the writing and call it three-and-a-half. The die hard fans will find it lacking in some respects, but fans of good writing will enjoy it regardless.