Short Take: “Until the Sun Goes Down,” Ike Hamill

Pros: This may be my favorite Ike Hamill yet!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ike Hamill’s novella Until the Sun Goes Down may be my favorite of his books so far. The main character (you know, I’m suddenly not sure we ever got his name? Maybe I’m just getting old and forgetful) is heading for his Uncle Walt’s house. His mother is dead, his wife Kimberly is dead, and now his Uncle Walt has died as well. He needs to clean out Walt’s remote Maine house so that he can sell the place. But first, it’s the worst of the summer heat, and he stops by the neighbor’s house to make sure he’s okay in the heat. The windows are all closed tight, which can’t be good, and the front door isn’t latched. When he goes inside he finds the neighbor half-dead on the kitchen floor and calls the paramedics. While waiting he tells the man a childhood story involving make-believe vampires… only to have the man volunteer that there are vampires in the cellar. Our hero is all too happy to leave that house once the paramedics arrive–later he finds out that the man suffered from anemia.

This is a very gradual, slow wind-up of a story, and for once I didn’t find that the least bit off-putting or boring or anything like that. It’s a masterwork of a gradual buildup of tension and fear. It’s extremely internal, and we really get to know both the best and worst of our protagonist. There are only a few other characters that show up, but even the police have personality and interest.

One of the things I find interesting about this character is the fact that he doesn’t waste any time telling himself that there’s no such thing as vampires, or denying the evidence of his senses. He pivots swiftly into doing whatever the hell he can to stay alive.

This is a delightful horror read with a nice dose of strangeness–these are no ordinary vampires!

I like the strangeness of Uncle Walt’s house and the idea that anything is possible here, but it’s not a comforting thought at three in the morning.

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