Starting with a young adolescent striking out the best hitter in their little league, David Bernstein takes exactly five pages to let the reader know they’re not in for a light and fluffy ride with his newest novel, Goblins. It’s at that point the winning pitcher chases a long homer hit by their coach in celebration of their victory into the woods beyond the baseball field. Once there, he runs into an odd little boy who seems to shimmer and change form … and young pitcher (whose name you definitely don’t need to know) is soon whisked away by one of the titular creatures.
Any book in which children are the target of violence could be considered to be skirting close to the line, but Brenstein nails the tone of this one, going for over-the-top gore with little sense of reality or dramatic tension. Instead, this a is a creature feature worthy of the Scy-Fy Channel treatment - provided they'd be willing to relax their standards on violence and let the director bring Bernstein's blood-soaked vision to the screen.
Bernstein does not waste time detailing a host of major characters, instead letting Chief Hale do most of the heavy lifting as he very reluctantly comes to accept that his island is under siege from something far nastier than a group of child kidnappers. In fact, Goblins isn’t shy about sharing the POV of the monsters, so the reader is never left in any doubt about what is going on and why – regardless of how ridiculous the Goblin King’s plans are and the numerous plot contrivances which exist to bring some order to a story that threatens to spin out of control at almost every turn. But don’t get me wrong. This is a gleeful kind of chaos, and Bernstein clearly revels in dispatching his host of barely sketched in characters in all manner of gruesome ways. Hollowed out skulls, randomly discarded intestines and eyes being eaten for power are just some of the treats in store for the reader once the goblins get stuck into the human population.
If I have a complaint, it’s with the structure of Goblins. Too many times Bernstein flashes back out of the action to fill in a character’s backstory when it is already wildly apparent that said character is not going to last more than a few pages. To my mind, the story would have been strengthened had the characters been sketched in early in the piece and allowed to grow a little more before being thrown into the veritable meat-grinder. It might have slowed the pace of the opening half of the novel, but the back half would have been incredibly awesome …
That gripe aside, there is a great deal of fun to be had here. The pace is fast, the action entertaining, and the gore … let’s just summarise that it is plentiful and ask those with a sensitive disposition to stay away. Bernstein’s prose is also generally slick and readily consumable, even if it is clear the man has a cog or two loose.
But isn’t that exactly what we want in a horror writer?
4 Head’s Spiked onto Bedhead Posts for Goblins.
Originally posted at Horror After Dark, the preceding was based on an advanced copy of the book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review, which you have now read.