Review: “The Kelping,” Jan Stinchcomb

Rating: 3 out of 5

I love the concept of the “Rewind or Die” series of kind of classic-style horror novels, but the quality seems to vary a lot. I give Jan Stinchcomb’s The Kelping (Rewind or Die) a 3/5.

Craig is a dermatologist creating beautiful faces in the lovely town of Beachside. He’s a shoe-in for the Sea King Festival’s crowning of the Sea King, and his wife Penelope takes getting to be the Sea Queen very seriously. But someone seems to be trying to blackmail him about “that little cutie on the bike path,” and, well, Craig is a serial adulterer. Penelope knows, and seems to forgive him, although she wants him to stop. He’s tried, but he always falls into his old habits. After the Sea King festival, something strange starts to affect him–and he’s afraid it’s going to kill him.

The first half of this book or so was… shallow. Very surface level. I never really felt like I got a handle on any of the characters. Other than Craig, they all had one, maybe two traits, and that was it. Then he meets up with a man named “Dude Pelikan” who info-dumps a massive amount of information on him, and we’re shoved straight down to the depths with no real transition. The latter half of the book is much better and more interesting than the first, despite the massive info-dump on Dude’s part. I think this would have been a lot better as a short story that focused on the second half of the story and didn’t try to include so many unexplained, unfinished ideas (see the spoiler paragraph below for some of the questions I was left with).

SPOILER WARNING: There are a bunch of things that never get dealt with. What was with the odd cake Craig found? What was the deal with the “kiss” the mermaid in the attic wanted passed along to him before the festival? What about the small woman who waded into the sea, and why did she waylay Craig? Why did none of this happen to the previous “Sea King”? Was it really the kelp and odd “glaze” that did this to him, or was it that small woman, or was it because he didn’t get the kiss, or was it Penelope’s doing, or was it a combination of some of these things? Why would someone think that attempting to blackmail Craig would be the best way to get to talk to him alone? End spoilers.

This is an interesting book with a clever idea, but it really takes a while to get into the meat of things.

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