Best Horror of the Year: Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge

Best Horror of the Year Volume 3 edited by Ellen Datlow
Best Horror of the Year Volume 3 edited by Ellen Datlow

-At the Riding School by Cody Goodfellow

-Mr. Pigsny by Reggie Oliver

City of the Dog by John Langan

-Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Doors by Brian Hodge

Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge

Norman Partirdge’s Lesser Demons is sort of an action/horror hybrid wherein a small-town sheriff fights a lonely battle against demon hordes at the end of the world.  It is an undeniably cool setup even if it isn’t the most original of ideas.  Whether it was Matheson’s I Am Legend or the opening of The Walking Dead the notion of one man versus the monstrous hordes is something that has been seen before.

The story focuses not on fixing the problem but rather on surviving the situation as it stands.  Our hero is willing to sacrifice much of himself and his humanity to keep on living.  Partridge does an excellent job of setting an atmosphere of lonely isolation.  The scene where the Sheriff, sitting alone at the end of the dock eating a can of beans as the sun sets because he isn’t ready to face the blood of his deputy still on the walls of the cabin is incredibly evocative and rife with a mingled sadness that belies the Sheriff previously evidenced grim determination.

Truth be told I think that Lesser Demons is the first story in this collection suffer because of its length.  It is an encapsulation of a lengthy event that never really manages to completely sell its premise.  Events happen quickly and while the deputy and his slow slide into madness plays an important role of the plot there isn’t enough to time to establish a relationship between the Sheriff and his co-worker.  Without that emotional bond between the two character readily apparent the whole story comes off with a rather disturbing detached feeling.  I suppose that could be what Partridge is going for but it doesn’t quite work for me as a reader.  I really love the twisted menagerie of monsters that pepper the story and would love to see more of the apocalypse that unfolded in the story.  A solid entry that comes a bit close to being a disappointment but the inventiveness of the story and solidly constructed setting manage to keep this one above the mark.

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One thought on “Best Horror of the Year: Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge

  1. I agree with you that this story suffers from it’s length. It seems like it’s so in the middle of short story and novella that it doesn’t know what to focus on. The many-mouthed worm or the pair of rat-headed spiders could have been set pieces in a novella or novel, or teasers in a proper short story. Here, however, (because the flashback robs us of so much narrative tension) they are window-dressing.

    I can imagine a version where these encounters are present tense (think one-continuous-shot) or where they are only mentions (like here), but one that hints at sinister over-arching scheme. I mean, the action scenes and implications are wonderful, but to dispose of them in past-tnese leaves me aching for more past-adventures since there is no tension now.

    Ultimately, what robs this piece is the lack of reflection in the ultimate confrontation with the monstrous warm with the skinner’s claws. If the protagonist feels no hesitation or regret in cleaning off the wall again, why should we?

    But all this might seem to negative (however, it’s easier to pick faults with the good stories). Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend this story and (based only on it) Norman Partridge to anyone looking for a good horror blast.

    Anyway, thanks for your review. You can see my scattershot at http://www.grizzlyspectacles.com.

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