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Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
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Dark Harvest

by Norman Partridge

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2791440,505 (3.87)1 / 24

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Fall is here, and with it, that greatest of holidays, Halloween. There's a chill in the air (metaphorically, if not actually), and the times call for a matching chill in reading material. What could be better than a good scary story on a chilly Halloween night?

I came to Norm Partridge's Dark Harvest with high hopes: I'm a big fan of his collection The Man With the Barbed-Wire Fists, so I already knew he could write. But even having read him before, I wasn't prepared for how quickly this book sucked me in.

I'm normally not a fan of second person narrative; it tends to pull me out of the story. But for this one, it works, granting an immediacy and an intimacy necessary for the story's impact.

And what an impact. This story moves, man, and all you can do is hang on for the ride.

It's October, 1963, in Anytown, USA, and the teenage boys 16 and up are getting ready for the Halloween ritual: the Gauntlet, wherein Sawtooth Jack, a pumpkin-headed horror, attempts to make it from the field outside of town where he was born to the church in the middle of the town. It's the job of the boys to stop him (permanently), and the one who does gets a one-way ticket out of town.

We spend most of the book with 2 characters. Pete is 16 and running his first gauntlet. His family life has collapsed with the death of his mother and his father's descent into unemployment and alcoholism. He's had to grow up fast, and he wants more than this backwards little town can offer. He has to win tonight, so he can get out.

Bu things are never quite what they seem. The other character we get to know is the October Boy, and what we learn about him lifts the lid on the dark undercurrents running beneath this small, placid town.

On the one hand, Dark Harvest is a fast-moving Halloween chiller, with action that's fast and furious and genuinely scary. But on the other hand, It's also a coming of age story, and the journey of Pete and the October Boy as they discover the truth of the ritual will both chill your blood and touch your heart.

Dark Harvest is a marvel, and the perfect treat for your Halloween bag. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
3.5
Every Halloween teenage boys of a weird little town go out at night and hunt the October Boy. Killing the Boy means a ticket from the town, but he hunts them in return.

This Halloween it is Pete McCormick's turn to participate in the Run. He is going to learn a lot more about the town than he expected.

If I had to describe this in one sentence it would be a heartbreaking horror story with a great ending. Perfect for this time of year. ( )
  Aneris | Oct 31, 2016 |
Disappointment is the emotion I'm feeling as I start this review. I had this book on my "absolutely have to read" list for quite a few years now, so when I was able to snag a copy, I was thrilled to finally read this 2006 Bram Stoker Award winner from Norman Partridge. Wow, what a let down! I haven't been this disappointed since I read the over-hyped "The Pines" by Robert Dunbar.

The book treads familiar, worn out turf throughout and left me wanting a lot more. Partridge weaves a story around the mysterious October Boy who shows up outside a small town every Halloween. The October Boy's goal is to make it from the pumpkin patch from which he springs to the town's church (kind of a ollie ollie oxen free type of gaunlet). As he attempts to do this, he is chased by dozens of the town's teens and younger people (almost exclusively boys) with the goal of smashing him to bits. The teen who does the deed on October Boy is "rewarded" by being allowed to leave the town for good. The "Run" as the townspeople call it, is not very well defined or introduced by Partridge who describes in shallow details to his readers.

Also not well defined are the teen characters who participate in the Run. Pete McCormick is the main protagonist, but he appears primarily in the first and last third of the book only. There's almost nothing on the elders of the town and/or the nebulous Harvester Guild, which is mentioned a few times, but not expanded upon. The book weighs in at a sparse 160-some odd pages, so it's more short story than novel. Maybe the paucity of pages helps explain why Partridge couldn't spend much time in character or plot development. At least that's the alibi he could use.

Partridge is a fine wordsmith and is good at turning a phrase, but there just wasn't enough in this book to make me want to recommend to horror fans. What's surprising to me is that it was a Stoker Award winner. I guess 2006 was a light year for long fiction horror nominees. ( )
  coachtim30 | Dec 15, 2015 |
An absolutely amazing book, probably the best I've read so far this year. DARK HARVEST maintains it's pulsing, poetic prose and fevered pitch up until the very end. It's a rich brew, to be sure - the literary equivalent of dark chocolate chased with a shot of whiskey and a whiff of cinnamon - but the way the tale is told and the plot constructed perfectly counterbalances the dense tangle of metaphors and imagery that binds the whole thing together.
DARK HARVEST marries the wild creativity of Joe R. Lansdale to the haunted lyricism of Bradbury, and should surely please fans of horror, fantasy and literary fiction alike.
5 Stars - Highest recommendation! ( )
  Evans-Light | Nov 8, 2015 |
A small town's secrets (and sacrifices) are unearthed during its annual Halloween ritual.

The cornfields surrounding my house had just been plowed; Halloween was celebrated a few days before; the days were gloomy and overcast; the nights longer and colder - all in all, the perfect atmosphere for reading Dark Harvest.

I'll admit, in the opening pages of the story, I was a bit thrown off by the intermittent use of the second person ["That's not the way it works around here. You remember. Corn's harvested by hand in these parts (p.4)."] within the seemingly unlimited omniscient third person narrative, but that quirky style actually worked: I was pulled in closer, felt more involved in the story, as it progressed. Like I was sitting with the storyteller, in the middle of the woods, on opposite sides of a small bonfire.

Overall, I was reminded of "The Lottery" and The Hunger Games. A weird blend of the two, yet effective in its examination of conformity and apathy, especially in small town cultures. Or, one could read it simply as a fast-paced, somewhat gory Halloween tale about kids paying for the sins of their fathers. depending on how you interpret the reasons for the ritual.

Recommended to those who won't be too bothered by not having all the answers when the last page is turned. Dark Harvest is definitely more about the journey than the destination. ( )
  flying_monkeys | Nov 9, 2014 |
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For Ed Gorman
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A Midwestern town. You know its name. You were born here.
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They call him the October Boy, or Ol' Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. Rising from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in hand, he makes his way towards town. Both the hunter and the hunted, he is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.… (more)

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