This rating is a preliminary one. I think it deserves more from me, but I’m not there yet—I need to boil it down and reread the series later with more context.
Two things are immediately true: 1) this book is not a one-time reading comprehension experience and 2) I continue to be in awe of Jones’ electric-tripwire, running-from-Death (or running to?) writing style that is unlike anything I’ve experienced as a reader.
Horror elements: ★★★★★
Writing style: ★★★★★
Wait, so you thought Jade Daniels was done?? Welcome back to Proofrock.
It's 2019. Jade is back to "Jennifer" and she's just stepped back onto Proofrock soil following the trauma, trials, and incarcerations as a result of the events of My Heart is a Chainsaw. She's ready for whatever could qualify as a "fresh" start for someone who's seen the shit that she's seen. Her days of final girls, horror movies, and niche survivalist trivia are behind her. (Didn't you pick up on that from the "Jennifer" nonsense?)
But let's remember, this is Proofrock. It's like the town was waiting for its bloody princess to step back into the ring, because one Jade's back, things get dicey again.
On one cold, blizzarding night in February, Proofrock welcomes a convicted serial killer into its midst. Indigenous murderer Dark Mill South escaped his heavily armed convoy a few miles outside of Proofrock under the helpful blanket of an avalanche and found his way into town. There's a lot of teenagers who somehow managed to escape the previous massacre. Dark Mill South might not know the town's bloody history, but he's unwittingly about to decimate the surviving playing field anyway.
The players from My Heart is a Chainsaw are older and grudgingly wiser, and, in Letha's case in particular—armed with all of the slasher knowledge that she missed the first time around. Letha Mondragon, the previous final girl, isn't about to be caught unawares again. She's vigilant, she's alive despite the medical odds, and she's ready with every horror play in the book.
On a dark, dark night...
Dark Mill South’s Reunion Tour began on December 12th, 2019, a Thursday. Thirty-six hours and twenty bodies later, on Friday the 13th, it would be over.
Soooooo let's talk about it. Don't Fear the Reaper is, arguably, my most interesting anticipated release for this year. I took My Heart is a Chainsaw as a singular standalone, a titan in the horror genre that stood alone and needed no further explanations, riffs, or sequels. But then this sequel appeared out of the madness of Jones' mind and I knew I needed it.
Reaper was simultaneously exactly what I expected and yet also, wonderfully, different.
Did I fully understand it? Debatable. Do I need to watch the entire canon of classic horror slasher movies in order to fully understand this latest installment? ...Honestly, probably.
Don't Fear the Reaper is a honed blade for the slasher community. As a general horror fan with a particular interest in body horror and speculative horror, I was WAY out of my depth with this story.
It was an almost alienating experience to witness this novel play out via referential dialogue, meta takes on the subniche, and high-level interplay between established slasher canon (and fanon?) all stitched within a narrative that, itself, was a reflected commentary on the events of My Heart is a Chainsaw. It was brutally intelligent. I just didn't have the right playbook.
There were layers on layers here, folks. Forget Shrek's onion—I'm so sorry, horror fans, let me horrify you with that Shrek reference—this was the Meta Onion. I caught just enough of the referencing to make it through my reading experience, but I know I missed most of it.
The dialogue, scene setups, tropes, character developments, and more were all linked to other elements of the genre. And if you didn't get the reference, you lost the momentum. I do think that affected my personal reading enjoyment. But unlike other novels where that lack of understanding repelled me and made me DNF, this version made me curious, and—for the first time in my life, yes, even Chainsaw didn't inspire me—made me want to dive into the world of slasher films.
There's a lot to take away from Reaper. Similar to the interspersed essays within the narrative itself, I'd need a thesis to get into it. I didn't even have time to mention the subplots and subhorrors hiding behind the surface plot (let's just say, it is similar to Chainsaw in more ways than one.)
But suffice to say, this sequel was spectacular, and worth several rereads and discussions. I look forward to Jones pulling it all together into one brilliant dissertation in the final book.
Thank you to Gallery Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.