Can two kids alone stop a monstrous evil?
Women and children have been mysteriously disappearing from Evan’s town. And now Evan may know why. He was climbing a tree in the woods when he saw a decrepit old man toss a helpless woman into the mouth of a hideous tree-like creature.
Evan knows he can’t stop the man and the creature by himself, but he also knows no one will believe a kid with such a wild story. Only his best friend, Peter, can help him confront this terrifying evil. But if they aren’t careful, they will soon be missing too.
“I’m in the goddamn club, aren’t I?”
So said Rudy in the 80s classic horror/comedy, The Monster Squad, and reading David Bernstein’s new novella immediately reminded me of that treasured piece of cinema from my childhood. Two young teenage friends coming together to fight a monster and its keeper, knowing no adults would ever believe them until it was too late, so taking it upon themselves to triumph over evil? Sign me up.
Of course, I figured it would move toward a fairly predictable conclusion, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bernstein turned my expectations on their head in crafting a short tale that was darker than I had anticipated, and cleverer than I gave it credit. Most plot-related issues were eventually addressed and in most instances accounted for, though occasionally credibility is stretched thin by the protagonist going to such lengths not to mention the threat to anyone. Bernstein’s prose is also tight and assured, with very little in the way of padding.
After giving it some thought, the only other complaint I can make is that the end felt too abrupt (though I see what the author was aiming for), and as is always the way with anything that pleasantly surprises, The Tree Man just wasn’t long enough. In fact, it’s not even the advertised 84 pages, since a good 15 of those are actually samples from Bernstein’s other works.
To say too much more would be to do The Tree Man a disservice, but if you ever imagined what it would be like to take on the darkness with just your buddy, a chainsaw and a shotgun (Evil Dead stylez!) then this little gem of a story is for you.
Very highly recommended.
4.5 Urine Soaked Pants Legs for The Tree Man.