Review: Goblin by Josh Malerman

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Preorder: Amazon Bookshop

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box and Malorie, a novella collection in which every story reveals a sinister secret about a mysterious small town

Goblin seems like any other ordinary small town. But with the master storyteller Josh Malerman as your tour guide, you’ll discover the secrets that hide behind its closed doors. These six novellas tell the story of a place where the rain is always falling, nighttime is always near, and your darkest fears and desires await. Welcome to Goblin. . . .

A Man in Slices: A man proves his “legendary love” to his girlfriend with a sacrifice even more daring than Vincent van Gogh’s–and sends her more than his heart.

Kamp: Walter Kamp is afraid of everything, but most afraid of being scared to death. As he sets traps around his home to catch the ghosts that haunt him, he learns that nothing is more terrifying than fear itself.

Happy Birthday, Hunter!: A famed big-game hunter is determined to capture–and kill–the ultimate prey: the mythic Great Owl who lives in Goblin’s dark forests. But this mysterious creature is not the only secret the woods are keeping.

Presto: All Peter wants is to be like his hero, Roman Emperor, the greatest magician in the world. When the famous magician comes to Goblin, Peter discovers that not all magic is just an illusion.

A Mix-Up at the Zoo: The new zookeeper feels a mysterious kinship with the animals in his care . . . and finds that his work is freeing dark forces inside him.

The Hedges: When his wife dies, a man builds a hedge maze so elaborate no one ever solves it–until a little girl resolves to be the first to find the mysteries that wait at its heart. 

Review:

Originally appeared at mysteryandsuspense.com

Josh Malerman has been growing in popularity in large part due to the success of the Netflix adaptation of his hit, Bird Box. Before he sold Bird Box to Ecco/Harper in 2014, he had 14 manuscripts he had finished but never tried to publish.

In the last six years, since the publication of Bird Box, he has published eight novels and three novellas. Goblin was actually one of these, published in 2017 by Earthling Publications as a 500 copy, numbered, special edition. Needless to say, those all sold out years ago. Technically this is a reissue by Random House, but this is also a reissue that needs to exist.

Goblin is a town in Michigan filled with mystery and wonder. It’s supposed to have been a town built on spoiled land. Goblin gets above-average rainfall, buries their dead standing up, has exotic owls and a witch in the North Woods, and is definitely haunted. Malerman breaks this book up into six different novellas with a prologue and epilogue bookend story, every story unfolds more and more about the town of Goblin as it tells the individual stories. Malerman does this in a fantastic way. The first story has the characters take a walk through town to give the readers an idea of the set up. The second story has a historian who tells the origins of the town. The third story tells about the mysterious North Woods, with the Great Owls and the Whispering Witch. The fifth story tells about the attractions at the Hardy Carroll Goblin Zoo, and the sixth story tells about Hedges, a labyrinth tourist attraction built with hedges like the maze at the Overlook Hotel in the film version of The Shining. Not only does every novella add to the myth and lore of Goblin, but they also tell some really great horror stories as well. I loved the tension that builds in every story, and there are a few stories, particularly “Kamp” and “The Hedges” where I had to hurry to read the final sentences so I could stop holding my breath.

The great thing about Goblin being a series of novellas instead of short stories, Malerman has time to make Goblin a town that feels like another character. There is not the urgency of a short story, but there is also the fact that most readers will not like every story but there is an eventual escape coming soon with an ending and the start of another completely different story. Most of these stories are riveting and push me to keep reading, but a few of them just do not fit as well into the collection as others. One of these is the fourth story, “Presto” about a magician that is coming into Goblin for a one-night performance. This story is great as a whole, the mystery of whether or not the magician’s magic is too good for anyone to figure out or if it is really magic, but it does not fit as well into the book as the others because it spends more time with the magician named Roman Emperor than it does with the people of the town. The way that all of the other stories add more to the mystery and history of the town, and the absence of that in this story, really puts a spotlight on this being missed.

As a whole, there are many people who will not want to read this because it is a series of novellas instead of a novel, but it does not feel like a typical short story collection. All the settings interweave, and at the end of this extraordinary book readers will understand Goblin is about a place and its people: a town filled with eccentrics, curses, and mystery.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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