I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.DREAM WOODS by Patrick Lacey
Published by Sinister Grin Press on October 1, 2016
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Supernatural
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Follow your screams…
When Vince Carter takes a shortcut to work he notices a billboard that nearly sends him into an oncoming van.
The ad is for Dream Woods, New England’s answer to Disney World. It closed decades ago, but now that it’s back in business, Vince is eager to take his whole family, hoping the magic he remembers will save his failing marriage.
His wife, Audra, isn’t so sure. She’s heard the rumors of why the place closed. Murder. Sacrifice. Torture. But those are just urban legends. Surely there’s nothing evil about a family tourist attraction.
The Carters are about to discover that the park’s employees aren’t concerned with their guests’ enjoyment. They’re interested in something else. Something much more sinister.
Welcome to Scream Woods!
DREAM WOODS, by Patrick Lacey, is the first book I have read by this author. It turned out to be more than enough to get me looking into everything else he’s written. We begin with Vince Carter, a heavily-tattooed, one-time rock singer; now in a routine Accounting job that he took up to become a “family man”. After learning that his–then girlfriend–and punk-rocker, Audra, was pregnant with twins, he married her and happily settled down. Only Audra never completely “settled”, and Vince realizes now that she’s slipping away. These are his thoughts as he comes across–quite suddenly–a roadside banner proclaiming the re-opening of Dream Woods, an amusement park that Vince remembers as the one solid piece of joy in his youth. In an attempt to bring his family closer, he decides to take them all on a one-week trip to this nostalgic location . . .
While Audra is less than thrilled with the concept–remembering rumors of satanic worship and sacrifices that closed the park decades ago–she reluctantly gives in to the idea. Twins Andrew, and Tim (whose young life revolves around the fact that he has early-onset Diabetes), go along without any real expectations–aside from the constant arguing from their parents.
Almost immediately, that unsettling atmosphere descends upon the reader. Despite Vince’s happy memories, we can’t help but feel a creeping sense of foreboding at the sight of Sebastian, the bear mascot, and of the fact that so very few people seem aware that the park–dubbed “Scream Woods” after its abrupt closing– has re-opened.
“A place like that deserves to be closed.”
Once there, only Vince seems unaffected by the air of unease and dread that everyone else feels. Lacey does an incredible job of ratcheting up the tension at just the right pace. With his words, we are transported into a world where nothing appears to be quite right, and a menacing feeling pervades your every thought throughout the entire story.
A non-fiction author, Regina Michaels, is similarly drawn back to the “re-opened” park–a place she once worked at, and has never been able to forget.
“. . . There was something about Dream Woods, some air of mystery that she could not quite put her finger on . . .”
This story amps up the apprehensiveness with even the most seemingly benign of events, such as the way a receptionist’s smile doesn’t quite seem to match up to her face, and half-seen images that you can almost convince yourself you just imagined . . .
“. . . Normalcy is a pathetic term and it has no place here at Dream Woods . . .”
Another strong point that I noted was Lacey’s characterization. From the parents, Vince and Audra, to the twins, Andrew and Tim, each one of them stands out easily as an individual. Lacey–again–paces things just perfectly in giving us the backgrounds, emotions, and motivations of each character, without simply dumping it all out there at once. Each of these people become complex individuals that we could picture “knowing” in reality. He goes even further in this aspect, giving solid definitions to several of the characters “behind the scenes” at Dream Woods. Those, more than anything else, are enough to induce nightmares in even the most dedicated horror fan!
“. . . the face of nightmares, something that made you question everything you thought could exist. Made you question existence itself . . .”
This story had me riveted to the page from the first to the last word. Everything about Dream Woods set me on edge, eagerly awaiting what new images were going to sidle up to me next. I’ll never be able to look at a teddy bear without picturing the dead-stare of Sebastian, the Dream Woods’ mascot, again!