Halloween is coming, boys and ghouls! Tis the season for some horror novel reviews. Today, I’ll be looking at The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman.
About the Author
Clay McLeod Chapman studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts for Drama, the Burren College of Art, and Sarah Lawrence College. He currently teaches writing at The Actors Studio MFA Program at Pace University. His other works include; The Tribe, late bloomer, rest area, nothing untoward, Camp Cannibal, and Academic Assassins.
And no, those weren’t typos. He just really likes lower case titles.
Chapman has also been involved in the comic book industry, writing Iron Fist: Phantom Limb, Typhoid Fever, as well as for Edge of Spider-Verse and Venomverse, The Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man and American Vampire.
The Remaking just came out this month and is Chapman’s most recent publication (I guess that goes without saying considering).
“A deeply eerie and evocative portrayal of what it’s like to stare into the abyss and find something there waiting for you. A memorable, disquieting ghost story about stories, rendered inside a Möbius strip.”– Kirkus
The novel revolves around the theme that stories have power. It begins with an urban legend about “The Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek” – a tragic tale of a mother and her child being burned at the stake for being witches. From then on, every twenty years, the story comes back to life, possessing someone to tell it again. In the 70s, it became a B-horror movie, in the 90s it was a failed reboot, and finally appears in a podcast in the present day.
In general, the tone of the novel feels very much like a Ring/Scream mash-up with heavy meta-overtones.
Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his boyhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt. Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again . . . – The Remaking inside excerpt
I found this novel very enjoyable. It’s definitely got memorable characters and, as a horror fan myself, I identified with a lot of the people showcased within. To put it simply, it felt like a very familiar setting. I liked that it covered the progression of the urban legend’s journey through the years and the way it highlighted how horror was treated in the decades in which the novel’s events took place.
I just didn’t find it very scary or even tense. Maybe it was because it was so meta. Or maybe it because much of the novel was narrated in a way to try and make the narrator (Amber Pendleton) seem unreliable (there were many time skips because she’s doing so many drugs to deal with her trauma) that there just wasn’t really a true sense of suspense. I did like how the story came full circle, but I don’t feel like it ended on a very powerful note. I won’t post any spoilers here, so don’t worry. It just ended very abruptly and with no clear indication of what happened. I actually stared at the last page for a while and thought; ‘Oh, that’s it?’
However, the strength of the novel makes up for what I think the ending lacks and — really, you may get something completely different out of the ending than I did. I didn’t want to stop reading it and finished it in two days, not because it was short, but because it gripped me as a good ghost story should.
Overall, this is a cozy little read that you should definitely pick up if you’re looking for something to give you those campy meta vibes.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting my review on A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs so keep an eye out for it!
x P.L. McMillan