"The Warblers" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Eraserhead Press
Written by Amber Fallon
2017, 86 pages, Fiction
Released on September 1st, 2017
I once wrote a piece for LitReactor about up-and-coming female authors. Amber Fallon was on that list, mainly because of her novel The Terminal, which is a fun, fast, gory read. However, with the release of The Warblers by weird fiction and bizarro powerhouse Eraserhead Press, Fallon has pulled herself out of that list; she has arrived, and this novella will put her on radars that had missed her work so far.
Dell McDale is a regular 14-year-old who lives in a rural farm with his parents and baby sister. However, after the sun goes down, his life is anything but normal. The farm has been taken over by a group of terrifying flying beasts called warblers that are capable of tearing livestock to shreds and recently did exactly that to the youngster’s beloved dog. Dell watches as his father’s despair mounts and eventually leads him to town to make a phone call that hopefully will take care of the problem. Unfortunately, there are rumors that what Mr. McDale has called in to be a solution is worse, or at least more dangerous, than the problem. To make matters worse, an old bully is back in town, this time with more swagger and feeling like a military hero, and he takes an interest in what’s going on at the farm. Between the creatures that come in the night, the possible solution heading their way, and a bully pushing Dell into adulthood, things are adding up quickly, and the sun is starting to go down.
I usually have to find little things about books to prove that they’re good, but in this case, there are three main things that make The Warblers required reading. The first is the writing itself. Fallon knows how to tell a story. She also manages to keep readers hooked until the end, and when that end comes, to realize she just held them there for about 95% of the narrative, which is no easy feat . Furthermore, you get a sense for what Dell’s family is like, what his childhood and early teens are being like, and what the town/farm universes mix and collide, and the author shows you all that, along with the action, fear, and explosive ending, in less than 75 pages.
The second thing Fallon does here outstandingly well is dialogue and accents. It’s easy to give a character an accent. However, understanding that each accent comes from somewhere and that people with different accents say things differently and construct sentences in a peculiar way is something only true professionals pay attention to and pull off. The way it is done here brought to mind the work of Joe Lansdale and Edward Lee, and that, in my book, is one of the highest chunks of praise I can throw at a horror novella.
Lastly, the warblers, which are at once at the center of the narrative and entirely in its periphery, also make this a superb book. We get descriptions of what they look and sound like, the horror they instill in people, and the bloody actions they do at night on the farm, but they are also hiding away from the blistering sun throughout most of the narrative. As a result, the warblers become a variety of monsters in the mind of readers while the author surreptitiously reminds us that the most important element of any horror story is not the evil monster doing bad things but the people who suffer that monster’s wrath. On its surface, The Warblers is about evil creatures with a taste for animal flesh who keep a hardworking family locked in their own humble abode after the sun goes down. However, just below that surface, this novella is about familial love, heroism, youth and its accompanying anxiety and insecurities, and, ultimately, about storytelling itself.
Amber Fallon is an exciting new voice in horror fiction, and The Warblers is a great novella that promises much more dark goodness to come.