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The Ride: 05/18/09
There is an expected flow to time and the powers that be don't like it when the natural order of things is ignored. Thaddeus A. James gets his chance to break the rules of time and space in the form of a red truck last seen in 1965 before a fatal crash outside of a gift shop in a rural North Carolina town. Thus begins The Ride by Tom Brandner, a horror-thriller that crosses time and the realm between the living and the dead.
A well written horror will have a definite sense of place, a setting that can be rendered as normal, abnormal and terrifying. The Ride has this quality, being firmly set in North Carolina along winding blue highways and back roads and later through distorted, sometimes hellish versions of the familiar landscape.
The Ride had me hooked by the first page, a rare thing for a book. It was a combination of classic cars, a creepy setting, time travel and memorable characters. Brandner doesn't fall into the trap of loving his characters too much. If they need to die to forward the story, he kills them. He establishes this fact early, thus building the sense of danger and suspense as Thaddeus and the other major characters being their perilous drag race.
When I first finished the novel, I got so wrapped up in the story that I had high hopes for a sappy ending. I've since then been ruminating over the ending. Though part of me would still have preferred the tight, romantic conclusion, The Ride isn't a romance. It's a horror novel themed around the bittersweet tragedies of life. With that in mind, the conclusion is as it should be.
If you like books like Michael Marshall, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft or Daphne Du Maurier and have a thing for fast cars, you'll enjoy The Ride.