Author’s Note: “In addition to being a ghost story, The Hidden Valley is an experiment in structure. The reader will find that nearly every chapter is, in itself, a work of flash fiction. Also, each main character’s story may be read individually, and for a different effect.”
Reviewer’s Note: Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature of extreme brevity. There’s no widely accepted definition of the length of such stories, but they tend to vary from about a 300 hundred word minimum to a maximum of a 1,000 words.
The Players… Grant: The father who rips the family apart to move from Las Vegas to the valley-hidden town of South Bend. He blames his wife, but Grant has a secret that could destroy them all.
John: A teenager who insists on running with the wrong crowd and doing wrong things—in Las Vegas and, now, in South Bend. His wrong choices are just too easy to blame on his screwed up family.
Jane: In apparent response to a teenage pregnancy and abortion, this former cheerleader and popular high school student is now anorexic and agoraphobic. But does anyone know the whole story?
Carrie: A confessed adulteress, she blames herself for fracturing the family. Grant says they can start over again in South Bend, but his behaviour says differently.
South Bend: There’s something very wrong with this town. In fact, things are so wrong that should one of these four put it all together, escape will still be virtually impossible.
Maxwell Smart: Otherwise known as “Smart Kitty.” This is Jane’s cat, and he’s able to see what the humans cannot. Will he somehow find a solution, a way to save them from the hell in which they are about to descend?
The Hidden Valley: The Whole Story is an ambitious novel. First it attempts to tell the story from 5 different viewpoints. One of these characters is a cat (shades of Robert A. Heinlein?). Second, most chapters are supposed to be flash fiction—very short, fast reading, stand alone stories that, in this case make up the body of the larger story at hand. And, finally, the novel is heavily influenced by Stephen King. Considering that Lane’s last book was a tribute to Poe, one wonders if this novel is meant to serve a similar purpose, that it’s intended to give an obvious nod to King. A lot for a reader to take in, isn’t it?
But there’s nothing wrong with that. Each reader will take away what they want and are capable of discerning, based on their knowledge of flash fiction and Stephen King. Having had some experience with this kind of novel (I’ve written one book that was almost completely flash fiction, although most people refer to each chapter as a scene, and another book where there were two stories, one beneath the other, with many people never getting past the first story.)
So where do we begin our analysis?
The different viewpoints: I found the different viewpoints were almost necessary to this novel. The family is one which holds many secrets, and riding along with the different characters is the only way some of them are revealed and explained. I will say including a cat in the mix threw me off for awhile, but as the study was done so well, Smart Kitty and I were soon good friends. No, there’s only one issue I had with the multiple points of view. I found that Grant’s story was somewhat chaotic or patchy. Leigh M. lane could have used Grant to create a much darker flavour of novel, but her choice of extremely short chapters or scenes made that kind of development almost impossible.
Using Flash Fiction to create the form and pace of the novel: I’m all for flash fiction. The form has been around for a lot longer than its name. Vignettes and short, short stories and novels written in short punchy scenes (James Patterson, in his early days) have been used experimentally for decades. In fact, I must confess that until recently I had no idea what flash fiction was. So, when I came across the definition, the light bulb in my head came on, and I said “You’ve used this style before.” My poetry, novels and even short stories have quite regularly used the ultra short style that is flash fiction. But I have, on occasion, mostly in my last novel, run into problems with the form. Lane has done the same.
If you're going to use experimental forms in literature, it pays to know the basic rules so well that either you never forget to apply them, or you break those same rules consciously and obviously. While I enjoyed Lane’s story and found that, for the most part, it flowed well and was filled to the brim with interesting characters, her flash fiction was incomplete. Any story, no matter how short, demands a conclusion. And in modern literature that conclusion must also demonstrate how the character has been changed or enlightened by his/her experience in said story. Lane’s chapters did not always do this, and when they did I often found them unsatisfactory as a sub-story within the larger story.
Enter Stephen King: whether consciously or unconsciously, I think that Lane did indeed pay homage to King. Yet… her story was different enough, no one could ever say it was anything but influenced by the famous writer. For example, while Stephen fills his books with terrible human and nonhuman monsters, those monsters are never placed in the role or roles of protagonist. His heroes may be quirky or incomplete, but I don’t think they’ve actually been dark to begin with (some have become evil, but only through a complicated progression). Lane’s “family” is so damaged as to be morally corrupt and uncaring. It’s only against the backdrop of a far greater evil that we can forgive these things and begin to hope for these people.
So where does King’s influence show itself. The cat, right from the beginning, reminded me of PET CEMATARY. The quirky characters—while most definitely original—are a page right out of the imaginary “King’s Guide to Writing.” The Rock Lady is a perfect example of a character that cries out King’s place in Leigh M. Lane’s life. Other obvious nod’s are THE MIST that envelopes the valley, a fog we know will contain a monster or monsters but that will also mark the boundaries of its power. In the possession scenes, we eventually get to see the monster as a predator rather than a completely evil being, reminding me of THE DARK HALF and SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN. Stephen King has also dealt with the idea of possession in many different ways: THE SHINING and DREAMCATCHER being the first of many to come to mind. The Hidden Valley also nods to King’s revisiting the theme of possession in that there are not only multiple possessions (The truck driver, Carrie, Jane and, to lesser extents, both John and Grant), there are layers of possession within South Bend itself. And finally, do you think that the primary character in the story is named CARRIE by accident?
But this is what makes Lane such an effective writer: most of the references to King aren’t just giveaways—you have to look for them. In fact, I wouldn’t have put all these things together as readily if Lane hadn’t slipped and told me the book was influenced by King. Well… I probably would have caught the CARRIE reference.
What I think: The Hidden Valley: The Whole Story, as an original novel that’s a combination of ghost story and horror, is a solid 4 stars. If the family had been a little less dysfunctional and the efforts of the monster a little more insidious, Lane would have a 5 star novel on her hands. But, as flash fiction stories gathered up and formed into a novel? The author was less successful here. Her endings definitely needed some work. From this perspective only, you might expect the novel would come in at 3 stars. Not. The missing endings don’t matter in a novel; we expect to have to turn the pages to find an answer or conclusion to a story thread. It may be that to make the book work Lane had to change the endings to her flash fiction, but as readers you and I won’t know unless we go back and read the actual flash fiction series that’s included with the book. I just don’t have the time.
So, to Summarize: Experimental form. Only two words out of place. Flawless sentence structure (flow). Imaginative “bad things.” And the hard work of paying homage to The Master of Horror. The Hidden Valley: The Whole Story is the real deal, giving a 4 star performance and offering readers something truly new to read. This is quite an accomplishment.
11/22/63 Stephen King Scribner, 2011 978-1-4516-2728-2 Hardcover 849 pages Speculative Fiction/Time Travel/Horror
11/22/63 is a wonderfully strange creature....more11/22/63 Stephen King Scribner, 2011 978-1-4516-2728-2 Hardcover 849 pages Speculative Fiction/Time Travel/Horror
11/22/63 is a wonderfully strange creature. A man by the name of Jake Epping (King fans will notice the first name immediately) is convinced by a friend to go into the past to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, using a bubble or rip in time that he has accidently discovered. The little thrill we fans will get from running into Jake as a grown man is soon followed by greater joy when Jake runs into two of the youngsters from IT, just after they’ve defeated the alien killer of children in the town of Derry. In fact, it’s this meeting, more than anything else in the novel that set the tone for me. Once King reveals that no matter where the novel goes it’s going to be a revisiting and summing up of the fantastic worlds he has written about so many times, well, let’s just say I was tickled silly.
This story most significantly relates to his earlier and difficult to read novel, “Insomnia.” That book, too, attempted to tie in all sorts of loose ends from King’s years of stories set in the same magical worlds. But unlike Insomnia, 11/22/63 is a marvelous symphony of great narration, tidbits from past novels, fantastic mentions of a past almost forgotten and biting, horrific scenes that make those of wonderment and joy achingly sad—because no one lives happily ever after in a Stephen King novel. Just read a few other reviews. You’re sure to find someone who claims that King can’t write “good” endings. Maybe not, but his endings are true. At least they’re true to his imaginary worlds.
Why, King even tells us this in his own way (I’m going to take liberties here), “The past is obdurate,” his protagonist claims. “It doesn’t want to change. And it’s a machine with a mouthful of very sharp teeth.” If you pay attention to phrases like that, then you will be better prepared to be affected in ways no other King novel has managed, not even The Dark Tower series.
This book exhibits a mature and controlled King, a man in his prime, writing with the sureness of a master--pundits be damned. His narrator gave King enough distance to keep this monster of a novel under control. He also managed to tie up all the paradox problems of time travel to my satisfaction. Then, with an achingly beautiful ending, King left me melancholy for the better part of a day.
11/22/63 is a suspenseful, emotionally wracking and ultimately moving novel by the best story teller of our time. Yes, it will move you, if only you will allow yourself to believe.
Reviews: - Micki Peluso, January 13, 2013 - James Secor, July 17, 2012, 5 stars - Lucille Perkins, July 28, 2012, 4 stars
Review by Micki Peluso January 1...moreReviews: - Micki Peluso, January 13, 2013 - James Secor, July 17, 2012, 5 stars - Lucille Perkins, July 28, 2012, 4 stars
Review by Micki Peluso January 13, 2013
TECHNOMAGE FROM EARTH TO EDEN II By Clayton Clifford Bye Chase Enterprises June 1, 2012
Richard awakens knowing he died on another hideous world, and finds himself facing a despicable creature who fully intends for the "magicker" to get up. And so he might if he could feel or move any part of his body other than his eyes and a mouth that rasps like a voice synthesizer. His liege, the Old One, tells Richard he's been resurrected in keeping with the Old One’s word — and Eden will soon be his and perhaps much more.
Sometime later Jack Lightfoot enjoys a cup of morning coffee after weeks of capturing ghoulish creatures which the seer, Richard had let loose in his town." Edenites consider them hell-spawn, from the time of Lucifer and man's final fall from grace." But Jack's work is far from over. He's about to face a new enemy. One that uses magic but is robotic like the "Terminator" and just as difficult to destroy. And so begins the extraordinary tale spun by author Clayton Clifford Bye, wild with horror and bloodshed, and fast-paced action, which rivets the reader to his pages. He portrays a terrible fight between Heaven and Hell, leaving readers holding their breaths in fear that in this final battle Satan will surely win. This well-written novella ponders the age-old question—can good and evil ever become friends?
TECHNOMAGE is the sequel to author Bye’s amazing dark fantasy, FROM EARTH TO EDEN.
Micki Peluso: writer, journalist, and author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang.
Review by James Secor July 17, 2012 5 Stars
Clayton Bye. Technomage. After years in a desert, like an oasis rising up out of the sands, the pulp fiction of Technomage appears. Pulp fiction. Dime novels. Penny Dreadfuls. Open the front cover and you've mounted a stallion that knows nothing but running through to the back cover. Pulp fiction. The adventure stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, both Tarzan and John Carter on Mars. The detective stories of Dashiell Hammett. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Stories that you can't put down and must read--and then want to read more, like people reading serialized stories in newspapers anxious to get the next edition to see what happens. Pulp fiction is not long-winded or intricate; pulp fiction is straightforward, holding its own against the incessant need to detail 'til there is nothing left for the imagination and the narrative arguments that are bilious in the modern thriller of 400 pages. Technomage is 98 pages. There is no moment of pause.
Technomage flies along as the protagonists attempt to stop the total destruction of the world by The Old One, also known as Lucifer or the human Satan. The Old One cannot gain his ends without agents and, so, turns to technology. The evil Richard X, now a great roboticized being after resurrection by Satan, takes the lead with devilish powers only to run up against Jack Lightfoot who manages to combine magick--as it is spelled on Eden--with technology, developed by the child genius Victoria Ralston to defeat Richard's offensive.
The secret knowledge to defeat is found through old Indian practices but no one can figure out just what it is until Jack miraculously appears out of thin air and gives them the answer: the Godhead, The One God, is inside you. This is the essence of all religious teachings. It is the power of life from the very beginnings of recorded history. It is paramount in the story, in the defeat of The Old One and his evil. Without this power, our heroes--people--would not survive, despite their magick.
Jack sends himself up to the angels asking for help. But the angels are conservative and rather skeptical. So, Jack jumps inside one of the angels and takes her down to Eden to see the Hell that is raging. The angel is set free to report to the Angel Council and the Angel Michael is sought for.
With Jack holding The Power Within and Michael and the other Angels at his side, Satan is defeated in off-hand manner, for there is no possible way for him to withstand such power. And the door is left open for more in this legend.
Technomage is a legend. It is not a religious creed despite the religious references. As with the parable spinners and seers of old--where have they gone?--the story can only be told in the language and metaphor of the listener, in this case the reader. This speaking in the language of the addressed people is considered the height of wise teaching. And it is well worth reading. It is that instant gratification from childhood that we have lost. Don't let mommy and daddy tell you you must wait for 300 pages before you can gain enjoyment. Do it now!--with Technomage.
Review by Lucille Perkins July 28, 2012 4 stars
TECHNOMAGE is the sequel to Jack Lightfoot’s first story: From Earth to Eden. While Jack and Katy enjoy a rare moment of privacy in their own home, a metal monster comes to visit. Jack grabs Katy and ‘jumps’ to his parents’ house. Alas, Satan, The Old One kills Jack’s family and wife and takes Jack captive. From then on, it is war. War on Earth; war on Eden. The battles rage strong and ever stronger, until it looks as though all life will be destroyed. Jack Lightfoot is faced with finding an answer despite the fact that he, as the blurb says, “is forced to give up all that is human…in an effort…to stop the destruction” The Devil is bringing upon Earth and Eden.
My opinion—If I describe any of the events, the story would be told. Suffice it to say, that, as in all great stories, the battles start large and grow ever larger, more menacing, more tension filled. TECHNOMAGE is a fitting sequel to Book I, but the last battle is too brief. A stab, a slash, a lunge of the sword to the chest—and it’s over. I would have liked to see the last battle be a bit more difficult to fight.
Gillian Jane Sims | 5 out of 5 Stars! Your poetry is just unbelievable.
Lucille P. Robinson | 4 out of 5 Stars Note: due to size restrictions, the follow...moreGillian Jane Sims | 5 out of 5 Stars! Your poetry is just unbelievable.
Lucille P. Robinson | 4 out of 5 Stars Note: due to size restrictions, the following represents only a small portion of the original review... "I found the following truths about Clayton Bye’s What I Found in the Dark poems. They make you wonder, ask questions, imagine, and, yes, feel sadness, joy, discomfort, and perhaps a yearning for love, for understanding, for a close mate to share your life with. Yes, these poems are deep, some rhyme, some don’t, some are clear on their own, some become clear from the introduction that comes before it."
John B. Rosenman | 5 out of 5 Stars! By all means, be sure to read Clayton Bye's What I Found In The Dark.. It's nice to see a poet with a sense of structure and restraint. When it comes to poetry, restraint magnifies freedom. The brief introductory comments are great, too. They tell us just enough without spoiling it for us. I like their thematic tie-in with darkness, love, and related emotions. Most of all, this is a volume you can read repeatedly without exhausting its richness.(less)