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"Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas" shows the dark beneath the surface of a small town

On the surface, Goblin seems like any other small town, but if you scratch past that surface, you get the sense it’s a very, very different place than what you’d expect.

The town is explored in Josh Malerman’s excellent, “Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas,” showing you exactly some of those differences that make Goblin a place where you might not want to live.

As the title suggests, “Goblin,” is broken up into six separate stories, as well as a fantastic prologue and epilogue, so it’s really like seven tales that take place in this town.

“A Man in Slices” features Richard and Charles, his friend whose very existence seems to make everyone else uncomfortable. After Charles makes a confession to Richard, Richard is left with a decision on what to do about his odd friend.

“Kamp” features Walter Kamp, a town historian whose biggest fear is being scared to death and has done everything he possibly can to prevent that from happening. Kamp also provides a history of Goblin, which helps tie the stories together with portions of the history being used in several of the stories.

“Happy Birthday, Hunter” is about one of Goblin’s most famous residents, a big game hunter who has shot and killed everything he has ever wanted. On the night of his 60th birthday – a party where debauchery is the norm – he decides to hunt the last animal he has never shot, something that could make him a town pariah.

“Presto” features magician Roman Emperor and his assistant Maggie. They travel from town-to-town performing magic that appears to be impossible. There is a secret about his magic and the cost he has to pay to be able to do it. He has come to Goblin for his latest midnight show.

Dirk Rogers seems to work at conflicting jobs in “A Mix-Up At the Zoo,” he’s both a tour guide at the local zoo and works at the local slaughterhouse. Rogers is not happy in his life, and as the story progresses, you see him slipping further and further into despair which leads to a not-so-happy surprise.

In “The Hedges,” a little girl solves the mystery of Walter Sherman’s maze made out of hedges and it and that leads to a terrifying trip into the haunted North Woods with the even more terrifying Goblin Police.

There are some themes mentioned in several stories – the haunted woods, a specific breed of owls that live only in Goblin, the rain, etc – which ties the stories together nicely. My favorite stories were “The Hedges,” “Happy Birthday, Hunter” and “Presto,’ but all six stories and the prologue and epilogue are really good.

I know I use this word a lot, but it’s the word that I used to judge a horror novel – creepy. Is there a creep factor to the stories? Is it creepy? “Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas” definitely has that creep factor that should satisfy every horror fan. A must-read.

Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas

Josh Malerman

Del Rey (2021)

385 pages

Buy it here

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