Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Pleasant Valley

by Eralides E. Cabrera

Just like the song, we start with just another Sunday in Pleasant Valley, a quiet suburban town with friendly neighbours, picnic areas, and the like. It's the late sixties, and Nick Soter is a teenager who loves his music. Everything is peaceful and idyllic for him, in this haven of white picket fences and all-American values.

During the long first chapter we're lulled into thinking that nothing will ever happen. After 36 pages of going to the movies, eating, getting petrol and general small talk, Pleasant Valley seems like a decidedly dull place. But in the next chapter the pace changes abruptly.

Distracted by a petty slight, Nick Soter goes to the wrong house for band practice. There he finds a dead body. Not long after, his friend Pete appears to Nick as some sort of demonic shape-changer. In quick succession Nick's father is killed in a freak car accident, and his mother follows him to the grave, apparently dying of shock.

Unsure of his sanity, Nick is drafted to the war in Vietnam. Whilst there he gets in a few lucky shots which earn him the Medal of Honor. But he gets injured, so his tour of duty is brief. After the war he goes back to school to study medicine, and lives his life far from Pleasant Valley. But he is haunted by the events of his past, and is occasionally visited by dark shadows which tend to presage terrible events.

Nick falls in love with Lori, and it is she who eventually persuades him to return to his home town where he can confront the supernatural evil that lurks there.

In spite of the oddity of Cabrera's villains, the plot is fairly standard and a little predictable. Neither vampire, nor demon, nor alien, there's a little of each in the Pleasant Valley monsters. Yet what they don't possess is an ounce of horror, unfortunately. What really lets Pleasant Valley down is the poor quality of the writing. Pages are wasted on trivia and chat that adds nothing to the story. In places it reads more like someone's unedited life than fiction, with all the boring bits left in.

For some reason everyone admires our hero, Nick Soter, without reserve. It's not realistic. Even when awful things happen to him, it's hard to sympathise with Nick. He's simply too wooden, too inhuman, to evoke any pity or empathy.

There's an unintentionally hilarious moment when Nick discovers his foe's weakness. Pure Wensleydale. Moreover, there's no subtext to this novel, or even any unifying theme. Odd stuff happens, but it's not invested with any particular meaning or moral by the author. So at the end you're left wondering what the purpose of the story was.

I could go on, but I don't want to labour the point. Pleasant Valley is utterly putdownable.

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books


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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson.