Detailed view for the Book: Ceremonies, The


Ceremonies, The





# Date Publisher Binding Cover
1 1984-00-00  

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T.E.D. Klein entered the world of horror fiction with a great big splash when The Ceremonies was published in 1984. The novel was met with much critical success, being nominated for a 1985 World Fantasy Award and winning the British Fantasy Society award for best novel. Stephen King proclaimed it the most exciting horror novel since Peter Straub's Ghost Story. The Ceremonies really is a magnificent work of horror, but it is not for everyone. If you like action on top of action, you may find yourself bogged down and discouraged by this novel. At over 500 pages, it is rather long, and it can seem even longer than it really is to readers seeking quick thrills. Klein builds this novel quite slowly and tediously, creating an atmosphere of impending doom that grows in short increments from one page to the next. It is not the awful events that make this horror novel work; it is the atmosphere of dread and suspense. One cannot help but detect a little bit of Lovecraft in Klein (and not just because one of the characters is called the Old One), although both men's style differs considerably. The power that stands to be unleashed by the completion of "the ceremonies" described here is gargantuan, an awesome, world-destroying creature called up from the depths of the earth, a creature too ancient to even be labeled evil. There are several storylines running through this novel, and their paths converge on only a few occasions, which is a facet of the writing that may bother some readers. Jeremy Freirs is a graduate student and teacher who decides to spend his summer working on his dissertation and preparing for the class he will be teaching in the fall on Gothic Literature; he thinks he has found the perfect place in Gilead, New Jersey, is a world all to its own, the home of a strict religious sect with extremely puritan ideas. Moving into a former storage building on the farm of Sarr and Deborah Poroth, he expects to spend a productive summer free from essentially all distractions - he is quite wrong in this assumption. Meanwhile, in New York, the rather reserved Carol Conklin goes about trying to survive in the big city on a small income from her job at a library. She meets Jeremy in New York just before he leaves for the summer, and a connection is made which will find the couple developing a romantic relationship on somewhat strange terms. What Jeremy and Carol do not know is that this relationship is the work of a strange, little old man known as Mr. Rosebottom. Rosie is actually the Old One working to bring his master back after a very long absence, and Jeremy and Carol are the unsuspecting keys to his success. It can take some time to really get into this novel. A lot of time is spent introducing the characters, describing their true standing in the events to come, and introducing us to the Poroths, their farm, their community, and their ascetic religion. In time, the story comes alive in much the same way that untold numbers of snakes and worms come to infest the countryside of Gilead. Some might say that nothing much happens until late in the novel, but plenty is going on in terms of building the proper atmosphere in which this novel lives and breathes. The religious tie-ins to the events at the Poroth farm work beautifully in this context. As much as I love this novel, though, I have to say it is not perfect. Despite the rich and closely cultivated storyline, the relationship between Jeremy and the virginal Carol is rather mechanical, never developing the least bit of spark; Jeremy is in fact much more attracted to Deborah Poroth than he is to Carol. I did find the Old One to be a really effective character, one strong yet mysterious enough to hold this novel together as it see-saws back and forth between Jeremy in Gilead and Carol in New York, but there is seemingly a weakness in terms of character development here that prevents me from giving this novel five stars. Despite this fact, The Ceremonies is a truly landmark effort deserving to be read and admired by all who pursue the darker paths and are willing and eager to let the plot develop at its own pace without becoming frustrated over the lack of action early on.

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