THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS
by Ramsey Campbell
Tor, August 2011
So, I’ve had a couple of books from my editor sitting on my desk for a while now. I keep getting super excited about some other new book I get to start reading, and just forget why I asked for specific books in the first place. Well, this one I didn’t forget. I knew it would be creepy and I was just waiting for that moment to feel the need to be creeped out. The Darkest Part of the Woods by Ramsey Campbell certainly didn’t disappoint.
Oh. My. Gosh. The cover on this one had me creeped to no end. The bugs, the face, the implications…just wooww. The artist managed to nail the cover (and it fit perfectly with the book itself, as I soon found out). Between the description of the book and the cover, I knew I was in for a scary ride…I just had no idea it would get THAT scary that quickly or wonderfully.
The Book Itself
Since reading the book, I’ve heard Ramsey Campbell called a “master” of psychological horror. Having read The Darkest Part of the Woods, I realize this to be correct. Campbell plays with your emotions and preys on your fears, touching upon instinct and that deep rooted sense of mystery of the wild. The woods in this particular novel are set in faraway England (well, far away from my Midwest HQ) and yet feel as though they could have been the woods right outside of my back door. His descriptions are accurate, ethereal, and spine-tingling and made sure that I had the blinds pulled on all of my windows. Make no mistake, the Price family is not the center of this book…no, the main character is the ironically named Goodmanswood.
However, as multi-faceted and realistic as the woods are, the characters swept up by it are just as whole as the “setting.” The contrast between Heather, the realistic head of the household and mother, and her flighty sister Sophie is a gripping example of how opposites react. However, I feel the star of the show (at least of the human characters) is the mother, Margo. The descriptions of her artwork show that Mister Campbell wanted to take great care in describing this artistic master. Her reactions as a whole make her a bit shallow, but that added depth proves that there are always secrets buried deep. She is a simple and beautiful parallel to the depths of Goodmanswood and the antithesis to the evil of the attempted master of the forest, Nathan Selcouth. (I LOVE that name, it’s so fitting for a man of evil.)
Overall this novel is going to appeal across the board to Lovecraftian types. The pacing is not fit for straight thrill seekers, but I think the payout of the finish is worth even the slowest moments in the ride (which, in my opinion, were very few and far between). I couldn’t put this book down…let’s just say there were several sleepless nights during the days I wanted to get this finished. It is a delightful descent into the madness of Selcouth and the woods, as they say, are dark and deep…and there are miles to go before you can sleep.