THINGS WE FEAR Synopsis:
Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.
School’s out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer. Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she’s afraid of being hurt again. Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.
But they’re about to learn real fear. Fairington is home to a monster. Phys Ed teacher Matt Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile. He’s a killer and he’s got his sights set on Emily. Who at Fairington will conquer their fears? And who will fall to a psychopath’s hellbent rage?
THINGS WE FEAR is my second outing with Glenn Rolfe’s work and the first novella of his that I’ve read to date. The first review of his work that I did was of his bloody and entertaining werewolf novel, BLOOD AND RAIN (review here). As I said in that review and will reiterate here, Rolfe is an author with no small amount of talent. He’s also a versatile author tackling such topics as the heretofore mentioned werewolves, ghosts, malicious alien ooze, and now serial killers.
THINGS WE FEAR is a tale about exactly what the title suggests, fear, and more importantly, coming to grips with that fear. For school teacher Emily Young, it’s a fear of relationships, for Aaron Jackson, it’s a lingering childhood fear of water stemming from a near-drowning accident. The thing they should truly fear is Phys Ed teacher and serial killer Matt Holmes, who views Emily as his next conquest and Aaron as nothing more than an obstacle in his path.
As per my usual course of action with these things, I want to talk about what works in this story. Firstly, though a common premise, Rolfe has taken a unique approach to the serial killer theme, both in the profiling of his killer and in the structure of his story. This has the effect of adding a high level of interest right from the start. He also has extremely strong control of the summer setting, doing a more than passingly good job of placing you in the moment, making you taste the ice cream and feel the cool beaded moisture on the beer bottles, the grit of beach sand between your toes. In addition, he does an outstanding job with character interactions, showing a stronger grasp of natural flowing and sounding dialogue than is common for a young author. This and the vivid control of setting has the effect of moving the story along at a brisk and engaging pace, making you want to see what’s coming next.
Another thing I was really impressed with was character development. I mentioned briefly in my review of BLOOD AND RAIN that I felt Glenn’s characters were a bit thin. With THINGS WE FEAR, he has shown a marked improvement, the characters well rounded and likable, except for the one that’s detestable and that too is outstanding. We don’t just dislike Matt Holmes, at least not in my case. I outright detested him and wanted to see grievous harm done to him ASAP. That’s exactly the reaction a villain should evoke in my opinion. It’s a strong sign of a rising star in fiction when an author shows improvement in needed areas from book to book.
All that said, there was one thing that could have used improvement in THINGS WE FEAR. The story started out with an extremely chilling scene that set a tone for the story and made a promise: this is going to be a scary story. Unfortunately, the conflict between protagonists and villain was never fully realized, Emily and Aaron never really aware that there was much of a threat until the climax. As a result, the story didn’t quite live up to it’s promise. The tension was always there, the threat seemingly just over the horizon, but the outright horror never quite got there. Keep in mind with what I just said there that this is largely opinion and your experience will vary.
Glenn Rolfe has garnered a lot of notice and a lot of praise among readers and colleagues alike and, as evidenced by BLOOD AND RAIN and further proven here, that notice is deserved. While being only the second work I’ve read by him, THINGS WE FEAR won’t be the last. I will read everything he publishes going forward and, as time allows, will go back and read the books I’ve missed. If you haven’t read his work yet, I highly recommend that you do.
About Glenn Rolfe:
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.
He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will also be released in March 2016. His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming by 2017.