by David Seltzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Omen / 0-451-21942-2
I thought the concept behind "The Omen" was quite frightening, in a subtle claustrophobic manner - there's something deeply scary about a changeling child destroying a family from within, and all the photographic death foreshadowing, and the ancillary "the staff is in the employ of Satan" aspects all serve to create a dizzying tailspin as the senator and his wife are almost inexorably destroyed.
In that respect, there is nothing terribly wrong with this novel - all the details are here, just as creepy as ever, and the writing is well done and professional. And yet, there just seems to be something lacking - somehow, despite checking all the thriller/horror boxes, this novel somehow fails to really frighten or chill the reader.
Maybe it's too dispassionate - the hanging scene, for instance, is described with an almost artistically minimalist flair, but the reader is rushed by it so fast that the absolute horror of a smiling woman hanging herself at a public birthday party isn't allowed to sink in fully. (Indeed, the included full color photo of the same scene from the movie is more scary than reading about the event here in print.) Or perhaps the problem is that the characters are largely un-relatable - the senator's wife, especially, seems so devoid of human emotion (she is largely characterized as a chronically depressed empty shell) that it's hard to really take her victimization as the tragedy as it is, if only because she leaves behind neither a void in her family nor in the novel itself - it's hard to miss a character that hasn't been a fundamental part of the story anyway.
In the end, I felt like the technical aspects of this novel were well done and worth admiration, and I enjoyed the story and the narrative ride to the finish, but I was slightly disappointed that I was never really frightened or disturbed. I'm glad I read this book, but I probably wouldn't read it again.
~ Ana Mardoll
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