Jason Voorhees is not at his best. He's been buried by a recent landslide and has sunk into something somewhat similar to a cataleptic state. Although periodic lapses of catalepsy aren't all that rare for the routinely deceased and resurrected mass murderer, this time is different. His mother Pamela feels the time has come for her to help her son get better.
It is his birthday, after all. Happy Friday the 13th.
Since I had just finished the last novel in the Jason X series, To The Third Power, I thought that I might as well go ahead and finish the last novel in the Friday the 13th series, Carnival of Maniacs. Since the book was written by author and board game designer Stephen Hand, my expectations for it were pretty low.
It's not that I have anything bad to say about Mr. Hand's non tie-in writing, because I haven't read any of it, and I have been trying to get the Board Game Night gang to play Fury of Dracula, which Hand designed, for several weeks now. No, my problem is that Hand wrote a crappy novelization of the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But, considering the crap material that he had to work with on the novelization, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and a second chance, with Carnival of Maniacs.
Of course the bar for these novels is set pretty low, all things considered. It's a Friday the 13th novel, okay? All an author needs to do is pack the "story" with plenty of sex, mayhem, and murder, and just keep the pace moving fast enough to stave off boredom or second thought. In regards to the former, Stephen Hand does an admirable job of packing the book.
Rather than overdeveloping (i.e. "padding") a story that is focused on a small handful of doomed characters, a trap that other books in the series have fallen prey to, Hand instead tells five or six different, but more or less connected, stories. "Story 1" is about a group of Goths that are eager to search the woods around Crystal Lake and find the remains of Jason Voorhees. "Story 2" tells of how a hillbilly clan of cannibals discovers Jason's catatonic remains. "Story 3" concerns the struggles of a dead-but-it-just-don't-know-it-yet traveling Carnival of Horrors. "Story 4" involves a Rob Zombie style Shock Rocker that is obsessed with Voorhees. "Story 5" follows a somewhat rogue FBI agent named Michelle Kyler, daughter of Jason Voorhees victim Martha Kyler.
If that were not enough, Hand adds two subplots. One involves the body hopping spirit of Pamela Voorhees, the other concerns a ruthless collector of Jason Voorhees memorabilia that will stop at nothing to add Voorhees himself to his collection.
Quite a few these story threads come together, but some are cut short long before they can even come close to having a chance to intertwine. It makes for an almost chaotic, but never boring, read. One that will keep you guessing as to where the stories are going, and what the hell will happen when they get there. Carnival of Maniacs is, arguably, the most action packed and "traditional" Friday the 13th book since Jason Arnopp's Hate-Kill-Repeat. While that is not saying much, it should say enough to get the forgiving Friday the 13th fan interesting in reading the book.
But that fan is going to need to be a mighty forgiving one. There is a notable lack of sympathetic characters in the book. Save for two or three, almost every character in the book is an unlikable lout. It was the one thing that really tested my patience while I was tearing through the book.