Book Review: The Masks of our Fathers (2011)

Horror can come in many forms.  There’s the external forms of serial-like killers after you, zombies wanting to eat you, and vampires wanting to suck you.  And then there’s the internal kinds of horrors in which one’s mind becomes the source of one’s own horror.  Barry Napier’s THE MASK OF OUR FATHERS definitely falls into the internal kind of horror.  Napier gives us an interesting story in which Jason Melhor returns to a place where he spent a great deal of his youth, his family’s old fishing cabin, to kill himself.  This is the setting in which Napier weaves his tale of personal demons, redemption, and a forest full of mysterious creatures.

Napier’s strength lies in his development of the main character Jason.  We follow Jason from mentally preparing himself to swallow a bullet to finding the strength and the will to wanna survive and get his life back on track.  Napier takes Jason, mentally, through Hell and back and he does a good job at describing the way Jason psychologically makes this journey.  What’s essentially screwing Jason up was his relationship (or lack of one) with his father, who was a drunk who neglected both his mother and himself.  We get a lot of ruminations from Jason about how miserable it was growing up with his father but to be honest I couldn’t quite make the connection as to why he was going to kill himself over his father.  Sure his dad was a drunk and neglected him and rarely had a nice thing to say to him, but he wasn’t a violent man and he never beat Jason or slapped around his wife.  I just never felt satisfied about Jason’s motive/reasons for wanting to take his own life.

Author Barry Napier.

Right before Jason pulls the trigger to end his life someone comes bursting into his cabin claiming he’s being chased … and he was by someone wearing a ritualistic-looking mask.  Then before you can say “Stephen King”, Jason is alone and tied up in the cabin left to die.  The comparison here to Stephen King is not without merit.  Napier himself described THE MASKS OF OUR FATHERS to me as “Gerald’s Game as written by Lovecraft.”  Well he definitely has the Gerald’s Game aspect down.  About 85% of the remaining novel is Jason alone in his cabin tied up and fighting death.  He gets very introspective about his childhood and his failure as a boyfriend and even starts getting visits from his dead father.  Is it a ghost?  Is he getting delirious from dehydration?  Or is there something more supernatural going on in the woods?  I wish Napier would have spent more time developing the supernatural aspects of the novel.  There’s definitely something happening in the woods surrounding the cabin but I thought he could have examined this in a little more detail.

We get bits and pieces of information from the person wearing the mask about some kind of ritual that takes place in the woods every so often but it’s all very vague.  There are legends about the Nagasai Indians and how their spirits inhabit the woods but we never really get any details.  This is a shame too because Napier gives us such a strong narrative on Jason, his background, and his catharsis that if he would’ve given more explanation on the supernatural elements then this would’ve been a kick ass novel.

The writing here is crisp and fast paced and Napier does a great job giving some vivid descriptions (at some points it reads like a script and you can’t avoid getting a strong mental picture of what he’s writing about).  And despite the shortcomings of THE MASKS OF OUR FATHERS (too much focus on Jason at times and not enough on the supernatural elements) I’m still recommending this one.  Napier has some writing chops and I’m looking forward to seeing how he progress as he matures as a writer.  Napier describes this as “Gerald’s Game as written by Lovecraft,” and fans of Gerald’s Game will definitely have fun with this one.  But people looking for a strong Lovecraft element will feel a little let down.  But at the end of the day this is a novel about a man facing his personal demons, the ones in his mind and n the world.  Check this one out.

My Summary:

Author:  Barry Napier

Plot:  3 out of 5 stars

Gore:  0 out of 10 skulls

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

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  1. […] Masks of Our Fathers received a very insightful review from Anything Horror. For those that have not yet decide if it’s a read you would enjoy, this review  should […]

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