The Book: The Goat Parade by Peter S. Dudar (2018, Grinning Skull Press). I bought it from the author himself at the Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls, Maine, this past summer.
The Review: The Goat Parade was both very different and better than I expected it to be. I went into the book expecting a good Satan-driven horror story, in the "booga-booga, devil's gonna getcha!" style, which frankly, given Dudar's storytelling skill, would have been pretty awesome.
Instead, what I got was a story about people, four in particular, whose lives were hurtling directly at each other, all due to the puppeteer's hands of a barely-glimpsed Satan. These people, of decidedly different moral and ethical stances, along with some others, find themselves manipulated in some cases, destined in others.
To what? Toward the ending, of course. I won't describe it, but it is not what you expect it to be. This is a violent, intelligent horror story that...
This is a violent, intelligent horror story that goes places that a lot of others don't. Not quite extreme horror, its effectiveness comes from the humanity of the characters that inhabit the pages. These are some fully fleshed-out characters and it's easy to relate to some of them (impossible for others, but that is part of its charm). Containing a thin streak of nihilism along with a constant thrum of hope, "The Goat Parade" will leave you thoughtful when you're finished.
There are only two negatives I will note. The first is that it seems to take a little bit to get started. Possibly true, but it's absolutely necessary to the characters and it pays off immensely when the story starts roaring forward like a freight train. The second--and this is a completely personal note--is that one character in particular speaks with an accent, and Dudar has written the accent into the dialogue. I am not a fan of that, preferring the accent to be just barely noted in the spelling of the words, or to be told that "this person speaks with a [whatever] accent." But this is completely a YMMV situation.
Because the slightly-slow beginning pays off so well, no deductions. Because the accent is a personal thing, I'm only going to ding it a quarter-star.
The Rating: Let's call this four-and-three-quarters (five) stars... a very, very good book that will disturb you.