Full Disclosure: While author Doug Brunell is a close friend of ours, “Candy” was purchased at our own discretion.
After reading author Doug Brunell’s bleak and gory cannibal thriller “Nothing Men,” I was literally prepared for anything with “Candy.” I’d heard almost nothing about it, and the premise online is cryptic. At only thirty three pages, “Candy” is just about what you’d expect from author Doug Brunell. He not only challenges expectations, but takes the fantasy genre and bashes its head in with a claw hammer mercilessly. That’s not a criticism, either.
Nate Helton is a man who works himself near exhaustion, and decides to take a break from his life. He retreats to the forests of the Poconos to stay at the cabin that he and his sister inherited from their dad before he died. He loved the cabin and Nate hoped some of that love would rub off on him. Almost consumed with stress, Nate stays at the cabin all alone and prepares for a month long journey of isolation and relaxation. Despite a kind retired neighbor down the road from him, Nate finds himself alone and soon uneasy by the sense of calm that overtakes the cabin. One night he falls asleep on his porch after a few beers, and realizes that the forest almost seems to be watching him in the still of the night. Thinking nothing of it, Nate ignores his instincts and in spite of pressure from his sister to sell the cabin, comes along a most welcome thrill. What begins as an isolated incident soon transforms in to a twisted journey from Nate whose own inability to deal with life corrupts his meeting with a fantastic force in the woods.
It’s tough for me to keep secret a book that’s only thirty three pages in length, but it’s best to know very little going in. Suffice it to say that whatever devices author Brunell introduces are dashed, as he raises big questions, implies a larger back story, and completely demolishes the classic images that he invokes at every corner. Though it’s more a novella than a book, “Candy” is very vivid and incredibly demented. As the narrative progressed I brushed through it as quickly as I could to see what would happen next and left it with a very satisfied smile. “Candy” has just about everything for everyone, and author Brunell is very slick to mash sub-genres and themes together in to a sick and gory monster that deserves a read from fantasy and horror buffs. At only a buck for its Kindle Edition, and thirty three pages in length, “Candy” is very much worth a read by experimental readers looking for something very different.