Hello, Loyal Readers!
It’s been along time, but I finally got my e-reader fixed, and I’ve found a new book to read! It’s kind of spooky, and just in time for Halloween!
The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero is a take on the classic trope of inheriting a haunted mansion from a previously unknown relative. The book provides a twist by using influences from modern “documentary” style horror films, ala the Paranormal Activity series. Its most striking deviation is that it is Epistolary—this means it’s a novel written as a series of related documents like letters, articles, transcripts, etc. It is also set in the early nineties, another thing I like.
Why I Picked It Up:
The cover caught my eye initially, and I feel it does a wonderful job of summing up the novel so far. Upon reading the dust jacket I thought the premise sounded interesting. Further, I’ve always wanted to read (and write) an epistolary novel.
What I Like About It:
This is a thinking-person’s book, and I like that a lot. One of the first things one might notice is the cypher in the book’s opening pages. I have yet to try and tackle it, but I intend to. This is an interesting thing because codes and puzzles are a theme within the book, and the book even gives you some hints as to how you might crack a cypher. Oh, it’s subtle; it’s so subtle I didn’t even realize it was a hint until a few days after reading the passage.
After the cypher, the book opens proper with a letter BUT–and this is a fantastic choice which I see now is really a masterpiece of subtlety–the first page is missing. It just comes right out and tells you that the first page of this letter is missing. Now this is fiction, so why did the author choose to omit the first page of the first letter of this epistolary novel?
Why indeed–that’s a great hook. My money is on the first page being boring because it’s a letter–“Dear So-and-so, How Are you? We are all fine, etc.”–but it could be for any number of reasons!
Anyway, the lesson we can learn from this is that in-medias-res works well–we don’t always need to know how a scene starts.
What Could Be Better, If Anything:
To be honest, I have very little constructive criticism so far. If I had to think of something people may not enjoy, it’s the pacing. Being one of those ‘documentary’ inspired stories, this one has a lot of seemingly meandering scenes–just like real life. Some might find it slow. I think the characters are likable enough to pull us through these seeming lulls, though I also feel that even the slower parts are building to something.
Another part which might be hard for some readers are the ‘Dream Journal’ entries. They are very stream-of-consciousness based and tend to repeat the same imagery, becoming clearer and clearer each time. It’s a bit jarring as we typically move from an article or a transcript into a Dream Journal and it’s a decidedly different tone. I don’t dislike them, but they can catch a reader aback and I wonder if there was a better way to have incorporated that information into the book.
Dreams are hard to write in an interesting way–I cut almost every dream scene I’ve ever written–and I feel they’re best done when left to a single sentence. Just a personal preference.
I’d say I’m likely about a third of the way into the book and, despite a scene with a psychiatrist which broke the fourth wall for me for being inaccurate, there is little that I have found wanting (if you’re curious, the psychiatrist scene and notes are a device for exposition to the readers, so I let it slide).
Anyway, I’m enjoying it and I plan to keep reading. It’s a good book that’s just spooky enough for Halloween.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!