Tuesday, 21 July 2015

REVIEW: David Bernstein - Skinner

Genre: Horror
Publisher: DarkFuse
Publication Date: 27th July 2015
Pages: 159


A copy of Skinner was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author David Bernstein via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by DarkFuse.

My only other experience of David Bernstein was reading the rather excellent Jackpot in which he collaborated with some other fine authors, Cesare / Rufty / McKenzie. I was hoping Skinner would be along the same sort of style. I wasn’t let down. You can see my review of Jackpot here.

A group of six friends are on their way to a remote log cabin for a weekend away. As they are climbing through the Adirondack Mountains they hit a bad snowstorm. As they round a corner there is a strange figure standing in the middle of the road. The driver, Rob, swerves to avoid him and they crash over the side of the mountain.

Miraculously they all survive the crash but now must battle against the elements to find somewhere safe to stay warm until they get rescued.

When they find an abandoned cabin they think all is well until they discover the tracks of a huge animal in the snow outside. If they think they just need to stay safe from the animal, they need to think again.

A mysterious and ancient evil is lurking outside. It doesn’t want them to leave.

So – a group of kids trapped in an abandoned cabin with some sort of wild animal outside that is basically scaring the crap out of them. Yeah it’s been done before hasn’t it? Whenever I get into a book like this and discover the plot I panic. Purely and simply because if there is nothing different to this story, I will not finish it if my attention is not kept at a high level. I finished this one. In fact I couldn’t really put it down. Why? Because Mr Bernstein added his own little twist to the story that made it the same, but different.

Characters in this story are nothing exciting. You don’t get big background stories on who they are, what has happened in their pasts and where they are probably going in their futures. You don’t need to know all of this stuff so thankfully the book wasn’t filled with unnecessary information filling gaps that needed to be plugged. Frankly there were no gaps that needed plugged. It’s six kids basically out for a fun weekend. Three couples. All normal. Or is it? There is a little sub plot that I am not going to give away at this point. It worked very well in raising the tension in the story because some people know and some people don’t know. The problem is the person who doesn’t know is going to go a bit mad when he finds out.

We have Rob, the driver and his fiancée Aria. Mark and his girlfriend Sara. Jeff and his girlfriend Spencer. All of the male characters are pretty macho I suppose and come to blows more than once but these spats are caused more by fear than anything else. They may be macho but they are still scared witless.

The big seller in this story for me is the mysterious, evil, old one. You don’t know much about him. You don’t know his name. He seems to go by many but like me, you will probably come up with your own for him. You get a bit of background on this man and soon discover that he may not even be a man. He is certainly ancient and possesses supernatural powers. In order for his powers to be sustained it looks like he needs souls. He certainly needs skins. There is one sequence in this story that will, quite literally, make your skin crawl. If you do not cringe and feel extreme pain when you read it, you are most likely already dead.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to claim you watched all those 80’s horror films the first time around then you are going to love this. It has all the ingredients that make up that perfect B movie. You know the ones that weren’t classed as “big” movies because there were no big stars in them but they became cult movies all the same? This is one. It has all the right ingredients as I say but anyone can put the right ingredients in. It doesn’t always make the perfect cake. If David Bernstein were a baker, I would definitely eat his cakes because he gets the mixture just perfect.

The writing style is very smooth. Like I said before it isn’t filled with needless info purely to fill gaps. There are no gaps. His writing is what I would call easy. It’s easy on the eye and the words just flow across the pages. It’s easy to piece together the scenes into a flawless story. It’s easy to be completely drawn into the story where you feel like you are living in it. This is a scary story but not just for the jump out of your seat moments. There is a certain psychological horror in this as well that messes with the heads of the characters and messes with your own head to the point that you have no idea where things are going and what is going to happen next. That’s what makes this story different to the run of the mill “kids stranded in a cabin screaming like girls”.

To summarise: Replica ‘80’s horror at its best – BUT – and that’s an important but – it’s not like all the rest. It’s got a twist that makes it that bit better and makes it stand out that little bit more. If I have a negative it’s that I would have liked to have seen more of this element in it. It ends up just shy of perfect for me because of that. One thing is for sure though, I will be reading a lot more of David Bernstein if he keeps this up.

General rating:

★★★★.5 Practically perfect.

Horror rating:

★★★★ Again practically perfect.

You can buy Skinner here:

Book Synopsis:

For six close friends, a weekend away turns deadly when their vehicle skids off the road and crashes in a remote part of the Adirondack Mountains.

In the direct path of a blizzard, they are hurt, cold and scared, wondering if they’ll make it through the night. But the group’s luck seemingly changes when they take refuge in a small cabin.

Their plan is simple: wait for the storm to pass. But there is something else out there that has its own plans for them.

Invade. Reveal secrets. Invoke madness. Make enemies out of friends. Create chaos. And shed blood.

I am a dark fiction writer, a horror writer. I write the gamut, from atmospheric horror to extreme gory horror to dark fiction and dark thriller, oh, and the occasional bizarro tale.

You can see more of David at his website.

David’s author page is here.

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