Greg F. Gifune just may be the best horror writer today (and arguably among the best no matter what the genre). When I saw that he had a new novel, “Orphans of Wonderland,” scheduled to be released by Samhain Publishing in March, I just knew that I had to read it.
20 years ago, Joel Walker wrote a best-selling book about a ritualistic murder that became an iconic work in circles in which satanic worship and cults were studied and by those who enjoyed stories revolving around these rituals. No one really thought that the book was actually a work of nonfiction. Joel, however, knew that the evil he wrote about was all too real. He had become acquainted with this evil and it had almost destroyed him. He was finally able to get out from under its influence and settled down for a quiet life in a small town in Maine. It seemed like everything was going well for Joel and that he had escaped his past. Unfortunately, the past has a way of catching up with the present.
When the daughter of a childhood friend shows up and asks for his help investigating the murder of her father, Joel finds himself drawn back in to the darkness that he thought he had left behind forever. Joel is forced to unravel not only the mystery of his friend’s death but also the mystery behind a strange day from his childhood. On that day, Joel and his friends were approached by a black car and woke up a day later with no recollection of what had happened to them. Joel thought that this was a one-time incident with no real meaning. He soon discovers that it is but the tip of the iceberg for a grand conspiracy that still hold him in its grasp.
Greg F. Gifune has become one of my favorite writers over the last decade or so and “Orphans of Wonderland” is an excellent example of why. In this novel, Gifune crafts another terrifying tale with its roots in childhood fears and conspiracy theories, two subject that Gifune excels at. He is able to blend the ideas of government conspiracy theory and demons into a fluid story that is terrifying yet not outlandish. This is a story that can make you both cringe and sympathize at the same time as Gifune knows how to play on the reader’s basest fears and emotions in much the same way as Stephen King. When you blend Gifune’s innate sense of what scares us with his mastery of the written word, you have a force in the literary world that does not receive anywhere near the recognition that he deserves. Why Gifune remains relatively unknown outside of the genre while others reach the bestseller lists is beyond me as Gifune is simply one of the best writers today. Period.
“Orphans of Wonderland” is not my favorite Gifune book but it is still better than most books out there from other writers. The novel is well-written and full of the suspense and terror that I have come to expect from Gifune over the years. There are a couple minor drawbacks to the novel that keep it from being among his best, mainly that I was really unable to relate to any characters outside of Joel and I felt that the book is a touch too predictable, but I would still put this novel up against almost any other book and it will come out on top. The simple fact is that you cannot go wrong with a Gifune novel and should never hesitate to pick one up when you get a chance. “Orphans of Wonderland” is a return to the uncomfortable worlds that Gifune writes for his fans and a great introduction for anyone who has not discovered just how good he is yet.
I would like to thank Samhain Publishing and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Orphans of Wonderland” is scheduled to be released in March.