Title: The Hidden Valley by Leigh Lane
When a dysfunctional family with a series of problems decide to move to a small town, about as far removed from the bright lights of Vegas as you could get, they are expecting to make a clean break and experience a fresh start for them all. What they get is something completely different.....for something unspeakable, something evil lurks below the surface of this quiet
mountain town and once it has them in its grasp, it refuses to let them go! Too late, the family begin to realize that they have been trapped as this force for evil manipulates them all for its own ends....
The Hidden Valley is the third book of Leigh Lanes that I have read for review and is a very strange kettle of fish indeed! It is described thus: “THE HIDDEN VALLEY is an experiment in structure. The reader will find that nearly every chapter is, in itself, a short story. Also, each main character’s story may be read individually for a different effect. Read THE HIDDEN VALLEY by character, read the short story serial, or read THE WHOLE STORY” and this was enough to
immediately pique my interest but does it entirely work as advertised? The answer, unfortunately, is no...not really.
The short stories of each character are supposed to work independently of each other, each set of chapters giving the reader a different perspective of what is going on but, in my experience, I felt more as though that unless you read the book as a whole, you would be more than a little
confused. Even reading the whole thing together, I was left kind of puzzled exactly what was happening at times. Maybe collecting each individual character’s chapters together and telling each story consecutively rather than splitting them between the other perspectives might have worked better? I don’t know. What I do know is that laying out the book in its current form just made this read like any other novel.
I felt that the whole evil lurking below the surface of a small town idea has been done before and done better. I didn’t particularly think there was much new here and I’m afraid I felt a little disappointed as I was expecting so much more. The author seems to expect the reader to stump up quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to buy into this whole story presented here
and, for me, it was a bit more than I was willing to cough up! The whole background behind what occurs also felt weak and not properly fleshed out and this book ended up resembling a house built on very shaky foundations. Case in point: I may have missed it but at no time did I find reference to how the family decided to move to this area in the first place or how they chose this town over all of the other small towns or how they found the house they moved
into. This seemed like quite an important point to me and one whose absence was
sorely missed. I also found the characters very hard to connect with and not very believable either if I’m being brutally honest - though I did think that using an animal as one of the character perspectives is ridiculous.
It is interesting to note that this is the second of Miss Lane’s novels that I have read that has tried to do something a little bit different (the other was Finding Poe). The only one of her books that I have enjoyed so far, World Mart, has been perhaps the most conventional of the three I have reviewed. I am all for writers attempting something different but I’m not sure
that here, the idea really works as well as it could’ve. This is a book that I really couldn’t get on with and struggled to wade through to the end. I’m trying right now to think of something positive to say about this book but all I can say is that I’m falling woefully short.
The concept behind all this may have been a marvelous idea but it’s fair to say, that it didn’t really work at all and this really did get two thumbs down.
Horror - novel
TBR Reviewer: Mark
From the author of World Mart, comes this very different and interesting tale that is a mystery based around many of the most famous works by acclaimed horror writer, Edgar Allan Poe and, in particular, his final, unfinished story that plays a central role in what proceeds to unfold. Lady Karina moves to an eerie lighthouse with her estranged husband following a scandal, only to be plagued by nightmares and hallucinations after she arrives that begin to warp her sense of reality. When her husband takes his own life, she is left a mysterious envelope addressed to Poe and sets off to deliver her husband’s final words to a man she has never met, let alone heard of. But along the way, things begin to get stranger and stranger leading her to question her sanity as she becomes less certain what is real and what just a dream...
Having read and been disappointed by Dan Simmon’s Drood (which follows a similar premise but instead looking at Charles Dickens and his final, unfinished work), I went in to this with very high hopes, especially having so enjoyed World Mart, Leigh Lane's previous novel. But unfortunately, though this is very well written and has an entirely suitable gothic feel throughout, I came away almost thinking I must be missing something. Though very good, reading this is kind of like trying to do a jigsaw where somebody keeps altering the picture as you go along. Every time I felt as though I was getting a handle on this story, along came Ms. Lane who seemed to pull the rug from out my feet sending me sprawling once more!
A book with no clear answers, no certain conclusions and no real sense of closure, this, like I say, is an interesting read if a perplexing one, that has gotten high praise and many rave reviews from critics. I can fully understand why because the imagery and imagination, not to mention research, that has gone into this novel is beautiful and brilliantly conceived. It would be unfair for me to say I didn’t enjoy this. But I was left feeling puzzled by its climax
and quite unsure how much of what I had just read was real and how much the product of a disturbed mind. It is a personal preference of mine that I prefer my endings just a little more neater and contained than is presented here.
A recent author I reviewed described his novel to me as a puzzle the reader needs to decipher and this is true too of Leigh Lane’s book. Is it better than Dan Simmon’s Drood? Definitely! Does it make any more sense? Not really though you cannot deny the technical skill and effort that has been put into something that at least tries to be different from anything else you will have read before. I loved the subtle introductions of so much influence from Poe’s collected work and definitely think that a better knowledge of his fiction would help make this a more rewarding read. But it remains that this is a book that
left me feeling very confused and for that, I am afraid, I can only give this 3 stars.
That said, I still have high hopes for anything else that Leigh Lane has written and this hasn’t put me off any. Indeed, she remains, in my eyes at least, an author I will certainly be keeping an eye out for in the future!
Science Fiction - novel
TBR reviewer: Mark
Imagine if you will a dystopian future in the style of George Orwell's 1984. A future where Governments have all but been dissolved; a future where big Corporations now control every aspect of your life and where there are no more cities but instead self-contained districts split into four distinct sectors of business. Imagine a world where the energy crisis has spiraled to the point where electricity and heating is strictly rationed and where Global Warming has
lead to much of the planet becoming uninhabitable due to adverse weather conditions. Sounds pretty bleak right? The problem is that it also all sounds pretty credible and believable! Could this be where our own future is leading? For Humanity's sake, I sure hope not!
World Mart is a bleak tale set in an all too likely future. Think not so much Bladerunner but more of a darker, more serious and less surreal version of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and you will be getting very close to the world Lane has created here. Following the life of one family as it struggles to survive in this post-modern depressingly prophetic future, World Mart is a tale that twists and turns through a series of events that overturn everything one man thinks he
knows about those in control and offers a bleak vision of a world that seems, at times, not that far away from coming true!
It is difficult to talk about this book without giving too much away, but this was a compelling read that gripped me very early on. The characters are well conceived, the plot compulsively addictive and all in all the story flowed fairly well. That is not to say this book is not without a few flaws (a plot thread concerning one character's experiences of voices in her head is never adequately explained, the Deviants who seek to threaten the big Corporations' control only seem distinctive by the fact that their eyes are a lighter shade than other peoples') but these were never enough to spoil my enjoyment. The end result is a novel that unsettles the reader simply by being very close to the truth of what could just be waiting around the horizon.
I really enjoyed this and would certainly read other material by this author. Lane apparently writes under lots of other names in several different genres but certainly from this example it seems they have a real talent for scarily believable Science-Fiction and will definitely be someone I will be looking out for in the future!
Ms. Lane is giving away a copy to one lucky winner. Comment below to enter. Contest ends January 13th.