Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: 'The Turning' by Justin Scott

3 / 5 Stars

In the dying upstate New York town of Hudson City, word comes that the old asylum on the mountain overlooking the town has been sold. Observers note the presence of blue lights in the windows of the dilapidated building. Soon after, groups of young people clad in blue shirts and blue jean overalls start to take up residence in the asylum, now owned by a vaguely Christian religious sect called the Revelationists. As more and more members of the sect arrive in Hudson City, the local merchants are overjoyed to find a rapidly expanding base of customers. 

Prosperity takes hold in Hudson City, but the town doctor, Alan Springer, finds himself questioning the motives of the Revelationists . When a sect member is badly injured and taken to the town clinic, Springer is forced to look on as the sect members enact a startling ‘faith healing’ of the crippled man in the doctor’s own operating room.
Ensuing encounters with the Revelationists have Springer convinced that the benevolent actions by the sect’s leadership are simply a smokescreen. The sect’s leader, a mysterious, charismatic individual named Michael, has his own plan for the fate of Hudson City….and his plan starts with making converts of the town’s young people.
Alan Springer realizes that something must be done to fight back against the sect’s sinister designs. But the Revelationists have no desire to turn the other cheek. Anyone who seeks to blunt the sect’s plans must be prepared to risk his life…and the odds of Alan Springer’s survival are getting less with each passing day….
‘The Turning’ (March 1978; Dell; cover artist uncredited) is a member of the cohort of other 70s novels dealing with the occult, such as ‘Audrey Rose’, ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, and  ‘Harvest Home’. As such, I doubt if many readers under 40 will find it very engrossing.
Author Justin Scott is a capable writer, but the narrative moves at a deliberate pace, seeking to build alarm and suspense in a gradual fashion. Much attention is focused on the emotional conflict between Springer and his teenaged daughter Samanatha, and the ambivalent response by the townspeople to the economic largesse that comes with hosting a wealthy sect. The occult and/or supernatural elements of the tale are very understated, and the novel is really more of a restrained thriller than a horror story. The violent action and gore that a younger generation (raised on zombie films, the ‘Saw’ movies, and Splatterpunk fiction) expects of a horror novel are absent from ‘The Turning’.
The book does reward the reader who manages to stick with it through to the last few of its 268 pages, but the journey is taken in the slow lane.


Will Errickson said...

And also part of that illustrious sub-subgenre of gerund-titled horror fiction.

Joe said...

I liked this book. I've probably read it about a dozen or so times. It's simply a chilling notion of watching how people, either through voluntary or coercive means are bent to the will of the Revelationists. To me, this is scarier than any typical monster or slasher story. I'm not saying this is possible, but the idea of it happening, and being one man against everyone else.... It reminded me of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.