Today’s best thriller writers on one hundred classics of the genre…
My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, in keeping with the holiday season, I’m looking at R.L. Stine’s Silent Night.
Reva thinks she can have whatever – and whoever – she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby’s Departments Stores. Now, someone has some surprises in store for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.
Jon Land doesn’t focus so much on the book as he does the author. Silent Night is just one example of many. The real magic here is R.L. Stine. “Between the time I write this essay and when it’s published,” Land says, “another ten million or so of his books will be sold to young people who will eventually turn to adult thrillers to keep them reading into the dark hours of the morning…”
I was one of those young people, although it was long after I started reading thriller and horror novels again that I made the connection to Stine.
I first read Silent Night about twenty years ago. And just re-reading the prologue, it all came flooding back to me… not to the point where I could tell you anything that was going to happen later in the book, but the bratty heiress and the needle in her lipstick were crystal clear in my memory.
Coming back to this as an adult, I found the story hard to get into because of the main character. I was probably annoyed with Reva when I first read the book, but now… she’s just such a caricature of the stereotypical mean girl that it was hard to keep from rolling my eyes. And in the end, her “transformation” feels hollow, in an after-school-special kind of way.
That said, I know there are sequels to this, in which Reva reverts to her old ways. I’d like to think that maybe she’s a more well-rounded character her next time out, with her self-discovery balancing her natural self-centered tendencies… but I have a feeling she’s just as nasty as ever. (Whether I’m actually remembering because I read the book way back when or just assuming, I really couldn’t tell you.)
While the characters are one-dimensional and the plot is fairly simplistic, the scenes themselves are pretty chilling. Despite not being really invested, I definitely felt my pulse racing in a few spots.
So… what’s the verdict? Must-read thriller? Not so much. Influential author? You bet.
“For millions of [young people], R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series represents their first exposure to a genre with which they ultimately fell in love.” Myself included.
Ten down, ninety to go…