Hallows Eve by Al Sarrantonio (2004): Sarrantonio’s best work channels the nasty lyricism of early Ray Bradbury (that is, Bradbury of the 1940’s, before he got too mushy inside) into new and unexpected directions. It’s an approach that seems to work better in short stories than in novels (which was also true of Bradbury’s output), though this novel contains a lot of fascinating scenes and setpieces, along with one of the more idiosyncratic views of the Afterlife ever put on paper.
A young man returns to Orangefield (the pumpkin capital of America), the small town he grew up in, ten years after he left. Orangefield is deeply weird, as in supernatural occurences every ten minutes weird — it’s like Stephen King’s Castle Rock after several bong hits. The Celtic god of death and the harvest (what a job title!), Samhain, is working to let a much greater evil god into our universe. Our protagonist and a plucky little girl can stop this. Maybe. Weirdness ensues.
The first half of the novel is weird and gripping; the second half seems a bit rushed and sketchy. Nonetheless, Sarrantonio takes chances with both plot twists and characterization here (not to mention the overall weirdness of the supernatural in this novel), giving us something other than the standard humanity vs. supernatural evil tropes that dominate horror fiction. This is part of a much larger story-and-novel cycle, though it stands pretty well on its own. Recommended.