Wildwood

by John Farris

“Reckon maybe there’s a law of physics would explain how that could happen. Or else it’s one of them black arts secrets that’ll stay secret until somebody figures out the answer.”

Part horror, fantasy, mystery and thriller, Wildwood is the story of a father and son traveling to a remote section of forest where the dad, Whit, is tasked with a survey from his company and the son, Terry, is on a pseudo-vacation visiting his father during his period of visitation rights. The woods are practically inaccessible so Whit, a retired army colonel, asks his old sergeant-major Arn, who lives in the area, to help him reach sections of the forest that no one else can.

The particular section of forest is, for a while, a character into itself. Stories abound concerning the 18 square mile impenetrable overgrowth, including that of a massive cottage built decades earlier up the mountain, vanished into thin air along with all 500 of its guests. It seems an occult scholar had uncovered secrets of how the world worked thousands of years ago and was implementing some of their deceased technology with the help of the brilliant architectural engineer Travers and the insights into energy of Nikoli Tesla.

Strange creatures out of place and time are rumored to exist there today, and as the story unfolds we’re treated to our main characters solving the mystery from without while flashbacks to the past enlighten us to the building mystery within, and the elements combined result in a book that challenges classification.

An odd mix of Apocalypse Now, Dennis Wheatley’s occult fiction and The Chronicles of Narnia, a couple of times the book threatens to shift into the fever dream state that accompanies other Farris works such as All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, but that never actually occurs. Those surreal moments are dealt with in a linear fashion shortly after they’re introduced so at no point in the story are you wandering blindly in the dark in this strange but well-lit mystery. A fantastic, fast-paced read filled with imagination and wonder.

“People will always believe what makes them comfortable, and doesn’t overagitate their brains.”

4+ stars

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