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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


By R.L. Stine
Warner Books, 323 pp, 1995

R.L Stine is best known for writing children's horror books, like the series Goosebumps and Fear Street (this according to the book's cover jacket). Since I'm no longer a child, I have not read these, so I don't know if they're any good.

This book is billed as Stine's first adult horror novel. It is not very good.

The premise sounds promising, though. A local small-town college is shocked and terrorized at a series of gruesome murders on campus. In the meantime, a new professor has wowed students and impressed his colleagues by teaching classes on mythology, folklore, and superstition. Not surprisingly, the professor, Liam O'Connor from Ireland, is superstitious himself.

Graduate student Sara Morgan returns to her alma mater from New York City, after a failed relationship with a loser, psycho boyfriend and being released from her job as an associate editor at a book publisher. She's majoring in psychology, meets Liam, falls in love, beds him, and marries him. She also goes to work for the dean of students, who spends the whole book leering at her and other women.

So that's the story. As you might have guessed, Liam is connected to the murders, but in a shocking, shocking way! It's actually rather pedestrian.

In fact, the whole novel is quite boring. Not enough happens to make it scary or even interesting. I had to struggle just to finish the thing.

Stine is an okay writer, but he has some quirks that are very annoying. He likes to repeat himself, such as when Sara discovers her ex-boyfriend's hand in her house:

"Ohhh." The hand fell to the dresser, the fingers spreading slowly.

Chip's hand.

Chip's hand.

Chip's hand.

That's right, he repeats it three times. And does it again on the next page, as if dreary repetition will somehow make us more shocked. It's a desperate, sad, contrived device that tires the reader. If it's so scary, it shouldn't need to be repeated.

But he does this throughout the book, repeating the same word or phrase. And every other page, a character is "snickering." Sara, Liam, the other forgettable characters - they all "snicker" multiple times. Find another word!

So that's my take on Mr. Stine. The book was written in 1995, so maybe he's written better books since. But I don't think I care enough to find out.

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