Written by: Caleb Arron Tong
When I picked up Daniel Kraus’s novel, Scowler, I expected a quick, fun, forgettable read – a book to kill an afternoon and not much more. Once I finished reading it, though, I read it again, and again, and I knew that the book in my hands was one of the rare few I would call “great.”
Scowler’s plot boils down to this: nineteen year old Ry, and his family, must survive the return of Ry’s abusive father, and his hay-wired plan to make a fortune by selling a meteorite that landed on the family’s property. To say any more, I think, would be to give away to much.
It’s hard to say exactly what makes Scowler a great novel, in fact, there are many things about the book that are typically characteristic of “bad” writing: many of the plot-points are too convenient, the writing is overly sentimental, verging on purple in places, the main “gimmick” of the novel (the three toys that act as Ry’s mentors and alter-egos) feels cheesy, and character motivations are flimsy– somehow, though, these elements work in the context of the narrative, and they add to its surreal and uncomfortable mood. To draw on an old cliché, Scowler is more than the sum of its parts. It also helps that the novel is so well paced that even in its worst moments I never felt as if I was wasting my time. The pacing in Scowler is immaculate. Not since Jack Ketchum’s Off Season have 300 pages flown by so fast.
Scowler is a brave novel, unafraid to show, or say, anything, and Kraus’s prose – if a little bit overblown – is strong, and I have no doubt that Scowler will come to be known as one of the greatest horror novels of the 2010’s.