Review by Brennan LaFaro
Philip Fracassi’s short fiction mixes the grotesque and the beautiful in a way that defies comparison to any other authors. Though he’s released novella-length work, Boys in the Valley is Fracassi’s debut novel. Earthling Publications will release a limited edition as part of their Halloween Series, and what a great addition to the lineup this is.
Part coming-of-age and part possession story, Boys in the Valley ticks a lot of boxes for what makes a great horror novel. The characters, including but not limited to Peter, make compelling characters in their own right. Some people will tell you what makes a good horror novel is how readable the story is if the horrific elements are removed. In answer to that question, I would read 300 pages of Peter and the other boys’ time at the Catholic orphanage. Their story is compelling and the reader will find themselves quickly and deeply invested.
As much as I believe in the mantra of horror being readable without the horror, the terrifying elements are not lacking here. With the advent of media like Game of Thrones, this idea that no character is safe has started pervading storytelling, but from the get-go, Fracassi establishes a story where nothing is off limits, and it never feels cheap. Numerous scenes throughout the 320 pages run will raise the hair on your arms and twist your stomach in knots.
Boys in the Valley was the hundred and first book I finished in 2021, and although it’s had stiff competition, it’s my favorite of them all. Earthling’s run of the book is limited to 500 copies, so if they’re still available, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s hoping Fracassi will do another print run in the future, because this is a book that demands a big readership.
Pre-order can be found here.