Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Bird Eater

A Review by Renee Vaughn

Published Lakeville Journal Compass 4/10/14

            Do you remember your first kiss?

            Not the first, fumbling experiment but the first, real kiss that woke you to possibilities of sensation and emotion hitherto unknown?

            Reading Stephen King’s The Shining for the first time was like that first, real kiss.

            But just as it’s not fair to judge your current lover by your first sexual experience, it’s not realistic to hope that you will get that white-knuckled, stay-up-all-night, gluttonously orgiastic feeling of reading King for the first time from any current author in the horror genre. With that being said, I stayed up late into the night reading Ania Ahlborn’s The Bird Eater. It wasn’t the best kiss I’ve ever had, but it reminded me enough of Stephen King’s work to keep me going and in the end, to be not too disappointed. In fact, I may download a few of her other titles.

            The Bird Eater is the tale of a broken man who returns home to confront the family ghoul. In the process he gets a chance to revisit the first girl he ever kissed and to learn a lot about not recovering from grief. I don’t want to tell much more than this as I’d hate to ruin the suspense for you.

Like King, Ahlborn’s major characters are beset with tragic flaws to which we can all relate: cowardice, addiction, self-pity, a stubborn inability to change and an optimistic belief that good can conquer evil. Similarly, her ghoul mirrors King’s evil incarnations of that which is most terrible about humanity at its worst.     

The Bird Eater is satisfying read; especially if you are house-sitting at an old farmhouse on a dead-end road as I was when I read it. Ahlborn has some truly great, cinematic images in which the lead character, Aaron Holbrook, struggles with his doppelganger demon who has a penchant for birds. Her language is deft and though repetitive, it does the job. She shines at describing the haunted house in which the bulk of the action takes place. I was also thoroughly impressed with the number of ways she managed to describe the way a person’s heart thumps when they are scared. The biggest compliment I have for her is that her characters dietary habits made me crave an iced glass of Coca-cola. Make sure to note the many references to classic horror movies she uses.

Her work is descriptive, page-turning and will make a good little movie when it comes to that.

I felt the first chapter gave away too much of the story. I found myself reading to see how it was going to come together rather than feeling trapped by my desire to see what was going to happen. I think the ghoul would have been much more frightening and the psychological development of the main characters much more intriguing if we had been allowed to take the trip along with them. This book reads a bit more like a TV “we-know-who-done-it” mystery than a true ghost story. I suggest you skip the first chapter until you are about half-way through. But do read it as the first chapter is good enough to stand on its own as a great horror short story.
            A Polish transplant, Ania Ahlborn, self-published her first book, Seed, and rose quickly to the top of the “as-good-as Stephen King” ranks. She followed it with The Neighbors and the The Shuddering. She has a great blog accessible through her website:

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