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Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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Charles L. Grant

The Sound of Midnight - An Oxrun Station Novel

The Sound of Midnight - An Oxrun Station Novel - Charles L. Grant I'm plugging on through Grant's fiction, in chronological order, and as expected, the stories are improving as I go. They're still similar in tone and style, with his signature "quiet horror" running through all of them, but the narrative and structure is coming along more to what I expect out of standard fiction. Where the first two books of his ended rather abruptly, The Sound of Midnight gives us a little more resolution after the final battle has been fought. If nothing else, it gives us a little more time to understand and respond to the ending.

This time around, the story is about Dale and Vic, a toystore owner and schoolteacher respectively, trying to understand series of deaths in Oxrun Station while trying not to become two more themselves. Grant wastes no time is giving the story a mysterious, ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere, without taking us too far out of the real world. Oxrun Station is just an odd place, with its own quirks and mysteries not found in other cities, but at the same time, it's a small town with a certain amount of charm. Even though the story lacks modern conveniences like the Internet and cell phones, there's still a timeless feel to the setting; it's not too hard to believe that the town is just an older town that's too far out on its own to have good cellular reception or to bother with that confounded Internet.

It's notable that this is subtitled "An Oxrun Station Novel" instead of being Oxrun Station: Volume II. The stories, as I understand them (I'm only two books into this pseudo-series, but I've read some articles about them), are all stand-alone books with characters from other books popping up in cameos. I wasn't surprised to see Natalie and Marc, but I was pleased to see that Grant wrote an ending for them. The Hour of the Oxrun Dead ended somewhat suddenly, without any closure to the subplot of the relationship, but Grant brings it in here, like a reward for his regular readers. Whether they remain unaffected from the events of that novel, though, is unclear.

Interestingly, of all three Grant novels I've read so far (not counting the stuff from over ten years ago), all of them have had female protagonists, with the events taking place from their points of view. It suggests that Grant was creating progressive characters, but the narrative ultimately proves him wrong. The women aren't stereotypical female horror tropes -- no scream queens or token deaths here -- but there still seems to be some stereotypical behavior there. The women never quite cross over into damsels needing to be rescued, but they do become sentimental over their men at the most inconvenient times. The men suffer, too; they're not presented as burly muscle men misogynists with no sense, but they do come off as ridiculously macho and full of themselves. That was the case with Syd in The Curse and with Marc in The Hour of the Oxrun Dead (though to a much lesser extent), and now he does it again with Vic in The Sound of Midnight, even going so far as to have him make a joke about raping someone. All these novels were written in the late 1970s, which might explain some of the posturing, but it didn't endear them to me at all.

I'm not sure that Grant's style is for everyone. Readers who are used to more action and suspense in their reads will probably find the stories to be too slow and uneventful to stick with them. Folks who don't mind taking their time with stories (and can overlook some of the dated dialogue) and enjoy the slow buildup of tension, though, should definitely check him out.