Review – Ty Schwamberger’s The Fields

Ty Schwamberger’s The Fields starts out with an introduction by Jonathan Mayberry, laying out the ground rules for zombie stories, those rules being that … there are no rules. Save maybe one, that zombie stories tell us more about ourselves than about the shambling undead on our heels. This was a wise choice, as, from the beginning, it’s clear that this isn’t the zombie story we’re expecting. It’s hard to say what exactly we’re expecting, but Schwamberger knows, and he exploits this knowledge, teasing the reader with one zombie cliché after another: the strange light from the sky, the backyard full of bodies, the zombie bite that may or may not have been a dream. The Fields makes explicit the subtext in any good zombie story: that the beasts reflect our own deepest fears of our time. Billy, the protagonist, fears losing the family farm. He fears not living up to his father’s expectations, at the same time fearing filling the old man’s shoes too well. Abraham, a mysterious visitor, shows up at just the right time to capitalize on Billy’s failing crops … for a price, of course. Abraham is easily the creepiest part of this book. His uncanny sneakiness, his sinister laugh, and a hint of mind-reading put me at unease from his first appearance. Abraham insists he is there to help – Schwamberger has expertly crafted a character just creepy enough to set your teeth on edge, but not creepy enough for the main character to be justified in turning down his promises of assistance. The setting is inherently spooky, too. Maybe it’s just me. I’m a sucker for rural settings. Add in a creaky old barn, some primitive farm implements, and a protagonist in worn overalls, and you’ve got my attention. Schwamberger sets the scene for us well. Unfortunately, while the story and the characters in The Fields were fine, the prose itself was a major distraction. A worse offense is that every few pages, Schwamberger seems to hit on a turn of phrase he likes, and repeats it to the extent that I wondered if I’d forgotten to turn the page. Sometimes repetition can form a pattern to drill in the importance of a scene. Here, it just gets boring. Couple this with the repetitive descriptions of Abraham and Billy’s father, add in a dash of over-long and unrealistic dialogue, and I think this promising concept would have been better suited to a short story. Overall I found this to be a great idea, with dynamic characters, that fails in the execution. Posted by HorrorFix contributor Sugar Shock.

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Ash Hamilton is not only the owner of Horror-Fix.com, but also one of its major contributors. A long time horror movie enthusiast, Ash has lent his personality to radio and television and continues to support his favorite genre through his writing and art. He also loves beef jerky and puppies... and low-grade street-quality hallucinogens.

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