I meant to read a different book for this but best laid plans and all that. I originally wasn’t sure if I should review this because I don’t have anything nice to say. Josh Malerman wrote a phenomenal horror book with Bird Box. He has yet to recapture that magic.
Unbury Carol was sold as a Sleeping Beauty retelling where she is aware but comatose. No one knows about her condition except her husband who plans to bury her alive. This was the hype that got me excited. The book did not hold up.
First off, it’s a western with vague horror elements. The trail, outlaws, and tall tales are huge parts of the story. Whoever decided to not sell it as a western was a fool. It’s like selling Snakes on a Plane as a comedy instead of the monster horror it was.
At 50 pages in, Carol still wasn’t buried alive. For a big selling point of the book, this plot point took ages to happen. And the ‘no one but her husband knows’ thing? Alternative fact. She kind of tells someone else and her first love knows. Thank goodness someone tells him so he can immediately jumps into action to save the day. Bye-bye sense of urgency.
There was a supernatural horror element with Rot personified that did not make sense and wasn’t fully dealt with. Rot finally wants to claim what’s his with Carol. K. He didn’t this time so how about the next go around? FFS, he came alive and impersonated a doctor. The whole thing was confusing and unnecessary. Either give us more of WTF that was meant to be or skip it.
Once Carol finally does get buried alive (over 200 pages in), Malerman pulls a dues ex machina that fixes everything. The dramatic tension he tried to create didn’t need to exist because a magic casket saved the day. Magic casket has been a thing for years so let’s save the day and make the whole book unnecessary in one plot point.
The whole thing was a tedious, hot mess that I might expect from a first novel, not a third. I seriously don’t know how Bird Box and Unbury Carol are by the same man. I honestly think this would have been a 3 star read had it been described honestly. As it stands, 2/5.
If you skipped the spoilers, what Unbury Carol is really about is a woman who falls comatose and is aware of her surroundings. The only people who know are her first love and her husband. The latter wants to bury her alive. Can the former get to her in time? If that sounds interesting, go for it.