Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
Pub Date: November 15, 2016
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Nathan Carson's debut novel Starr Creek is a very ambitious book despite its under 200 pages length. There is a lot going on in it and succeeds in some areas very well. Let's discuss where it succeeds.
The author has created a very interesting Oregon environment of tune-outs, drop-outs and turn-ons. Some of them are the exiles of society and others are just teens stoning out for the ride. While none of them grabbed me as essential and fully developed, they are all meant for the plot and speed it along nicely. Carson seems to have a counter-cultural sensitivity and it shows well here. His style is quite poetically descriptive and memorable lines keep popping out at the reader. I sense a little Brautigan here and the residents of Starr Creek seem be similar to the eccentric population of Christopher Moore's Pine Cove with a much darker sense of humor. But Carson's horror and Lovecraftian elements shine through too. The author has seized upon a fine plot where the residents encounter strange beasts and strange occurrences without really knowing until the end where they are coming from and what their intentions are. And of course, every character sees and react on this based on their individual motives. It's a nice bit of plotting.
It is also a frustrating piece of plotting. In Carson's ambitiousness he seem to be spreading out too many characters. There are a lot of intriguing dudes and scoundrels here but none are given enough room to really shine. Kira comes the closest but there just isn't enough rounding out of character even for her. It basically comes down to great writing and insufficient structuring for so many ideas. It's a common error in debut novels and it really shows here. But still, there is a good sense of environment and atmosphere that keeps me reading.
Then there is the end. I loved the build-in to it. But without giving it away, it ends suddenly. My big question is : is it a definitive ending that makes any thing else in this story moot or a cliffhanger. I'm kind of hoping it is a cliffhanger because the Starr Creek gang with all their flaws have real promise.
You probably noticed I said little about the actual plot. This is because if you do read this it is best that you go in with little knowledge to get into the atmosphere and to let the surprises sneak up on you. Carson is clearly showing off his counter cultural experiences and has his own unique perspective. Wherever he goes in his writing, Starr Creek is a good if incomplete example of his work and can only get better.