The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein is one of those horror novels that people who read a lot of horror, especially older horror, will say is one of the most underrated horror novels. The underrated part is probably true because I’ve read a lot of horror over the years and only very recently became familiar with this novel even though it was published in 1985. The fact that the book came out in 1985 and the fact that it is Klein’s only novel probably says a lot about why it is so underrated and under-recognized. Stephen King, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz were all putting out many novels during the eighties and were probably a lot easier to obtain than a single horror novel by an author who never went on to produce another one.
But it should not have been overlooked. The Ceremonies isn’t as good as King’s best or Straub’s best, but it is an above average horror novel and it hit a lot of the notes I like in my horror novels. There is a little bit of Pet Semetary (check out our review HERE) in it and it is written in the way a lot of the 80’s horror novels were written. If I had to put a finger on it, I would say it is folk horror but it’s also very much a cosmic horror novel that speaks to the fact that there is a lot more going on that most people in the small fictional town of Gilead realize.
The story focuses on Jeremy Freirs who is a teacher working on a dissertation. To focus on his work he decides to leave New York City where he lives and spend the summer reading and writing in Gilead, New Jersey, a small agricultural town a few hours from the city. Before he leaves however, he meets a woman named Carol, a librarian who begins a relationship with Jeremy in the city which expands into a long distance relationship once Jeremy leaves for Gilead. While Jeremy finds a place at the Poroth farm in New Jersey, Carol begins working for an old man named Mr. Rosenbaum or Rosie as she calls him. What she does not realize is that Rosie has worked to bring Jeremy and Carol together in order to orchestrate the return of his master who has been gone for many years.
It isn’t perfect, the action is slow and it is more of a slow burn horror than one that gets right in your face, but it should not be overlooked when discussing 80’s horror literature because it checks almost all of the boxes that you would look for when reading a horror novel from that era. If you’ve read the well known horror novels from the 80’s and enjoyed them, I would suggest trying to get your hands on a copy of this. It’s worth the read. Soft 4/5 on this one.
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