Halloween Land by Kevin J. Kennedy
I read horror books all year round. Every season is horror season for me. However, fall time puts me in a particularly festive and nostalgic mood. When the days get darker and colder, when the leaves crunch and the pumpkin spice flows freely, I want to read a specific kind of spooky. I want to read something with a Halloween vibe.
Halloween Land by Kevin J. Kennedy delivers the nostalgia-laden plot that I need beside a crackling fire with a stiff whisky and some mellowcreme pumpkins lifted off my children. The novella is bite-sized, like the candy, and I was able to binge it in one sitting.
Halloween Land introduces us to two teenaged children, Zak and Wendy, as they search for fun and frights on Halloween night. A traveling carnival has appeared in their town for the night, and the two feel compelled to explore it. They don their costumes and push their way through the crowd to get inside. Yet they quickly discover that the carnival is not normal. Instead, it is a gateway to something far more terrifying.
I know Kennedy more than the average reader. He and I co-authored the post-apocalyptic horror novella Screechers. I am also featured in several of his horror anthologies. I personally know how deep of a horror lover Kennedy is and how much genre knowledge he has. That passion, focused on Halloween itself, is very evident in Halloween Land.
Like any deep horror author, Kennedy takes his favorite toys out of the box to play with in his world. This produces a reliance on tropes and archetypes, appearances of familiar characters and ideas. Especially when we approach concepts steeped in motifs, like Halloween itself or a carnival. Kennedy blends horror with Halloween and a carnival in Halloween Land. This blending relies on the tropes you would expect to see in such a recipe, but I was not exasperated to see reliance on these archetypes. Rather, it was like coming home to familiar friends, smiling at the comfort.
The subtitle of Halloween Land is “A Coming of Age Story.” That aptly describes the journey of Zak and Wendy and sets the tone of their adventure. The two dressing up and heading to the Halloween carnival has a distinctly Goosebumps vibe to it, especially since Goosebumps laid the foundation for all my later horror indulgence. That tickle of my childhood only amplified the nostalgia already conjured by the Halloween and carnival imagery.
Yet Halloween Land does not remain in childlike fantasy. When Zak and Wendy cross the threshold into Halloween Land’s other dimension, we too step into Kennedy’s world of monsters.
I am familiar with Kennedy’s world of monsters. I have written there. When we were writing Screechers, I handled the human survivors while Kennedy concocted the mutated monsters. He imagined fantastical beasts. I cannot fathom what all is lurking in his imagination. I will not betray Halloween Land with spoilers, but the same sort of blood-thirsty beasts are unleashed from his mind. With the appearance of these monsters, you can expect epic battles and harrowing fights for Zak and Wendy.
Halloween Land is the quick, easy read to sit down with to get you in the Halloween mood. It is the story to curl up with when you are feeling nostalgic and want to go to the Halloween carnival and also hint at your own youth. Halloween Land is horror comfort food to be consumed in one sitting, perhaps by a fire with a stiff drink and some leftover candy (like I did). Get in line to see if you survive the Fun House!
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….
When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.
Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.