Man, I haven’t read a horror novel in so long. I originally bought this book for Sir Boyfriend’s birthday. He ended up loving it, so when the Spring into Horror Readathon came around a couple of weekends ago, I decided I’d give it a shot and see how it faired.
Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell is about the Larkin family who had the great misfortune of undergoing a terrible family tragedy in the late 1960s. Then many years later, in the ’80s, the family undergoes another shocking tragedy. This causes many spooky and kooky things to start occurring in the small, Southern town of Babylon, including blue flickering street lamps and randomly erupting graves in the local cemetery.
This is very much your classic Gothic, supernatural tale. There is a slow building of tension and plenty of ghostly theatrics to give you shivers late into the night. The fright-factors were done very well. The hook snagged me before I even realised it and then carried me page after page into the late hours of the night. It felt very nice to naturally drown into a book without any sense of it happening. It’s been a while since that’s happened. The creepy facets also had a decent effect on me. I remember that I reached a point in the middle of the night where I couldn’t walk across the house to visit the loo without turning on every single fucking light in the house because I was a tad bit terrified… like a wee little lady.
While I thoroughly enjoyed everything that made this a genuine, classic scary story, there were certain aspects that made it a little difficult for me to get through. The first is the momentum. It was so fucking slow, mainly the beginning. I’m the type of reader who doesn’t mind a sluggish start, but likes her books to be quick and fluid. Cold Moon Over Babylon had wonderful moments of motion, however the first 70 pages are immensely deliberate. I found my focus fluctuating here and there as I tried to keep up with all of the atmosphere-building that was happening in those pages. Yet this speed isn’t something that’s a constant. It quickly takes off and maintains that as the plot unravels with more intricate revelations. Nonetheless, we return to the land of the slow and restless as we near the finale.
When I look back at the book and what the novel encapsulated plot-wise, I appreciate and respect that level of gradual build-up, but it’s a quality that would make me hesitant on picking it up again in the future.
There was only one other thing that didn’t work for me, personally, and that was the way that particular truths were unveiled. I should specify that I just didn’t agree with the order of which they were portrayed. I think that it detracted quite a lot from the ending, shattering a good level of suspense that would’ve brought it full circle, and would have made all of the slowness worth trudging through. But this is an entirely personal feeling. Sir Boyfriend rather enjoyed the way the tale was laid out and how leisurely it all was. He said it definitely retained the vibe of a Southern Gothic ghost story. Since I haven’t read much of the genre, I default on his better judgement.
Overall, if you like supernatural stories that are truly freaky and very what-the-fuck in nature, and you don’t mind a gradual rise in tension or suspense, check out Cold Moon Over Babylon. You may enjoy it much more than I did, like Sir Boyfriend. While I liked it, it didn’t make me gasp with wonder.
3.5 rattlesnakes outta 5!