- Splinters by F. J. R. Titchenell
Rumors of paranormal activity have made Prospero, California a tourist hotspot for supernatural enthusiasts, but sixteen-year-old Ben Pastor discovers the true horror behind the kitsch when he returns to the small town after a ten-year absence. He’s initially there to attend the memorial service for Haley Perkins, a childhood friend who has been missing for two months and is presumed dead, but Ben turns into the town hero when he finds a bedraggled Haley stumbling down the street with no memory of what happened to her. Meanwhile, Prospero lifer Mina Todd knows full well what happened to Haley and must convince Ben that his friend has been replaced by a Splinter, one of the monstrous, body-snatching creatures that live in the local abandoned mines; an encounter with another Splinter persuades Ben to join Mina’s attempt to hold back the Splinters’ efforts to take over the town. Narration alternates between the two protagonists, with Ben mostly playing the straight man to Mina, who mixes Holmesian logic and Fox Mulder’s paranoia and throws in a dash of deadpan wit. Indeed, the balance of horror and humor here has a very X-Files feel about it, with our two heroes engaging in amusingly clever, whip-smart dialogue as they do battle with some genuinely terrifying Splinters, the descriptions of which will have fans of monster films utterly enthralled. Mina’s perspective immerses readers in the action almost immediately and gives readers an easy reason to suspend their disbelief. A promising series opener, this will satisfy those readers who like their scary stories to be as clever as they are chilling.