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Seed by Ania Ahlborn – Review – Douglas R. Cobb
For a taste of Southern Gothic horror, look no further than Seed by Ania Ahlborn. The horror is a bit slow to build, but there are plenty of gruesome and bloody moments in the novel to appeal to the most diehard horror fans. It’s in the tradition of novels and films like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Children of the Corn, and The Shining, in that it relies on children to convey much of the horror. Children are perhaps the most vulnerable members of our families, other than maybe the elderly, and we have a tendency to feel protective towards them. But when they suddenly behave in violent and evil ways, they are the scary and creepy grist of horror books and movies.
In Ahlborn’s engrossing novel, Jack Winters is the father of two daughters. He and his family have ongoing money woes and he is torn between following his heart and being responsible. He can either become a member of a rock band that takes up a lot of his time and doesn’t earn him much money or choose the route that allows him to be with his family and trying to find more lucrative money-making opportunities. Jack is also haunted by his past, both his family history and personal issues. Not to mention a bizarre horror, a monster of sorts that has, it seems, kept track of him over the years. It now seeks to turn its influence towards his youngest daughter, six-year-old Charlie.
Something strange with glowing silver eyes crosses the road as Jack is driving his family back home one night in his Saturn. Jack tries to avoid hitting it, and he ends up crashing his car and flipping it upside down. Fortunately, his family only suffers minor injuries; but, Jack thinks to himself that the creature he narrowly avoided hitting is too scarily similar to one he encountered when he was a boy. He tries to persuade Charlie that it must have been an animal, but she knows better, as she also saw it before the car was totaled.
“It wasn’t an animal,” she murmured. “It walked on two legs, like us.”
Jack’s wife, Aimee, blames him for almost killing the entire family. Though she fell in love with Jack in part to rebel against her parents, who told her that he wasn’t good enough for her, she has a genuine love for him; but, she also often wonders if Jack really cares that strongly for her and his daughters, or if he cares more for the band and his own self-interests. I was reminded by them at times of the characters that Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall played in the Stephen King movie The Shining.
After the accident, things in the Winter household get progressively worse. Abby, Charlie’s ten-year-old sister, knows that Charlie has changed in some way, but at first she can’t convince her parents that anything odd is going on. Jack eventually realizes, though, that the being that terrorized him in the past has returned, if it had ever gone away. Abby provides another perspective as to what is happening, which is unlike The Shining. I won’t get into some of the most gruesome details of the novel, but what happens to the family’s dog is one example of why Charlie will join your nightmares along with some of the other creepiest children you’ve read about in novels and seen in movies.
You can feel the suspense and tension build as you keep reading Seed, like the feeling that you get walking through the graveyards or near the bayous of Louisiana and Georgia, where the novel is set. Beware, for there is no gentle resolution to the story, where the horror is defeated, and all is well; the ending is violent and will ensure that Seed will stay with you long after you close the book.
Seed is in the best tradition of Southern Gothic horror novels, but with bite. It is the stuff of your worst nightmares, and touches on some of our most deeply ingrained feelings about families and the youngest members of them, our children. We like to think of children as being sweet and kind, but as with other horror novels and movies,Seed takes our expectations and flips them upside down, much as Jack’s car is in the accident. We are shown the evil that children are capable of, when they fall victim to the supernatural. If you love reading gripping, edge-of-your-seat horror novels, I highly recommend that you add Seed to your reading lists.