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It’s October, and that calls for nothing but the best in terms of spooky features. In honor of the lead up to Halloween, I’m going to be doing a series of features on some of my favorite Halloween reads. Since this is actually the first day of the month, let’s start off strong with a particularly gruesome pick: David Hine’s Strange Embrace. A rather macabre tale of obsession and lust.
Hine isn’t actually one of my favorite writers at all, of course that is a pretty sizable bias. All that I’ve read from him other than Strange Embrace has been his work on the Crossed franchise, which has been extraordinarily terrible. What that means is that, whatever your thoughts on Crossed may be, Hines ranks as the 2nd worst. Strange Embrace, on the other hand, actually rides a line of tones and moods that makes you wonder if Hines is just a real slingshot of a writer.
Strange Embrace deals primarily with the family dramas of an introverted young man, his sullen and passion-seeking wife, and their incredibly invasive extended family. The framing device is, admittedly, rather out-there. It involves the story being told through the eyes of a malicious psychic, and honestly this could have been excised completely. The effect is not unlike a Tales From the Crypt wrap-around, while adding in a small plot of its own.
The story touches on so many themes and twists that it is hard to talk about it without really spoiling nuances here and there, which is not a good way to recommend something. Suffice it to say that there is a rather perverse edge to all of this. Not in an incredibly graphic way, not outright, but in a way that really just unnerves. The artwork by Hine himself also really aids in this endeavor because of how much skeeviness seems to be underlying every panel.
There are some incredibly powerful pages that will just make your skin crawl. The way the plot unfolds may not be the most coherent thing; in fact, it does lose its way near the middle, but the exuberance of it all is what carries the reader through the tale. There’s so much more that could have been done, but the caution in showing what needs to be shown, and not what doesn’t, is like a well directed film. If it did go all out, it would have lost the impact that certain insane reveals had.
This is not a rainy day read, not in the least. It is a “I’m still awake at 3 in the morning and looking to be scared” read. The kind that lets you know you’re not going to look at the dark the same way for a while. It is for those reasons that I have chosen it as the first read on our Halloween journey. If you’ve read it, or are planning to read it, then drop into the comments section. This is a story that is as divisive as it is provocative.