Review: The Pines by Robert Dunbar

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Pines by Robert Dunbar (cover)

The Pines

by Robert Dunbar

Leisure Books, 2008

Paperback, 333 pages

ISBN: 0843961651 (Amazon) ; 9780843961652


This is a chilling tale set in the rural Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a region as known for its inbred, throwback inhabitants or 'Pineys', as for its swampy, humid and dense woodland. The story centers around a team of ambulance drivers, a couple of small-town sheriffs, and a series of deaths that occur, leaving behind bodies so mangled it looks as though wild animals have been in a frenzy. And yet, there are clues that these are no animals anyone's ever come across before. Thus start the rumors, the stories, of a devil, a Jersey devil, hunting its prey, tearing it limb from limb and doing unspeakably horrible things to the corpses....

The tension builds, and the bodies mount, as Athena, (one of the newer ambulance drivers) becomes deeply embroiled in the investigation. Is her involvement the result of her colleagues' unquestioning attitudes towards the deaths? Or is it because she's the single parent of a son who seems to be autistic, but who has an amazing ability to know the thoughts and intentions of the unknown assailant? Is this really a freak talent or something more sinister?

Using rich language and imagery, Robert Dunbar has written a timeless tale of horror and suspense. All the elements of the traditional horror novel are explored, with just enough twists and turns to engage the reader and lend the story some uniqueness. There are a few stray subplots that could have been edited out, and it seems they possibly were in previous editions. However, this has been promoted on the back cover as the 'uncut version, in paperback for the first time!'

While these subplots don't particularly enhance or detract from the novel, per se, they just don't take the story anywhere new. I have read quite a few horror novels in my time, and when I was younger I'd make the rounds of the more popular authors. In the end, what kept me from continuing with them was their predictability--the nubile thing in the woods gets attacked (usually in an overtly sexual way), there's a mysterious connection between the 'thing' and a human (usually involving telekinesis)--and this novel is, unfortunately, as predictable. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad novel, but for someone like me, who has read a lot of horror, it did take a little something out of the reading. I suppose I was hoping for a bit more uniqueness or originality, and I didn't find it here.

Still, this is a pretty good book for any horror fan to curl up with on a dark and snowy long as they're far from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

- reddit, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, etc... please! ;)
posted by xysea

48 comments; 27 subscribers

Monday, February 16, 2009 / 04:36:01
To be entered into the draw to WIN the review copy of "The Pines", let us know in comments which cryptozoological monstrosity you'd prefer to gnaw your leg off. If it has to be gnawed off. Which it does :).

Raffle open to US/Canada only, and closes on the 2nd March 2009 (midnight pacific time).
Monday, February 16, 2009 / 05:45:21
The Loveland Frog!!
Monday, February 16, 2009 / 10:20:00
NOTE: Winner will be selected randomly from pool of valid entries.
Monday, February 16, 2009 / 11:08:31
love to win
Monday, February 16, 2009 / 11:11:22
mverno--just so you realize, that doesn't count as an entry. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009 / 14:13:18
the radishark...although i may never go in the water again if i saw one..
Monday, February 16, 2009 / 16:19:02
lochy ness.I am a subscriber.Please enter me in this contest.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 01:56:26
Enter this bookworm,my type of reading.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 02:15:22
jelly15301, you need to answer the question to be entered into the draw :).
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 08:30:43
Lochy ness can chew my leg off.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 10:24:01
lochy ness
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 12:50:37
I'm noting a strange sameness in the responses here.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 12:52:15
Indeed. And I've never heard her referred to as "Lochy Ness" which makes it seem weirder. (She's always been "Nessie" to me).
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 13:47:21
I think if my leg had to be gnawed off (which you say it does :( ), I'd prefer the Jersey Devil. Heck, I wouldn't have very far to crawl after the dirty deed was done! Would love to read the book (as I'd be recovering after such a devastating injury.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 / 18:03:22
creture from the black lagoon
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 / 08:31:47
I must admit that having my leg gnawed off has never been on my list of things to do. But, if it had to be done, would rather it was a clean bite off, rather than that chewing sensation. So, probably the best monster would be Nessie--I am with you in having that be the name she (?) is known by. I somehow always thought of her as a herbivore though.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 / 13:03:38
I pick the Duckbill Platypus. I am not sure if it fits the regulations, but I would say it kinda fits. Plus, if it gnaws your leg off, you don't feel so bad because come on, look at the thing
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 / 18:21:54
Let a wise wolf do the deed--'twould be over quickly.

Better a leg than other things. An eye for instance. Or--well, never mind.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 / 20:12:34
Big Foot! (Is that 'animal' enough?)
It sure would make sense! He'd want to gnaw my leg off see if he can use my foot as apposed to his rather large foot. (feet?) But, being Big Foot and assumingly stupid, he'd probably not have thought that my leg(s) would do no good in his predicament. Thus, he'd just have my leg(s) and one screaming kid.

Uh. yeah.
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 04:37:10
The giant spotted silent ice-mouthed melodrama monster. Giant, so it takes fewer bites to do the job; silent, to spare me the awful moment of knowing it's about to happen; ice-mouthed, because cold numbs. (Melodrama, just because.)

Damn, i'm not US or Canada. That'll teach me to Read The Question, as my science teachers always instructed.

Well, you can keep my monster for free. Email me if you use it, anyone. ;0)

...Spotted - not sure why i said that, as i prefer stripes.
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 04:48:49
A UKer!? Check out or other recent reviews. We're always hurting to spread the word on our UK reviews, so your chances of getting something are pretty high. ;)
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 05:26:50
That would have to be Bigfoot, Grassman, the Yeti, or Sausquatch. Gnaw or chew away.
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 07:16:18
That copy of "Through A Glass, Darkly" is going begging, frex.
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 08:05:15
Had a look at Through A Glass, Darkly and hm... thinking of an exotic book. Suppose it can be a hypothetical one?

And now i'm off to look through your other reviews. I've been so INactive here, didn't realise you did these giveaways. 80)
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 08:32:46
Hypothetical is more or less what we had in mind :).
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / 09:09:07
And tell all your friends! (after you've won some, anyway ;) )
Friday, February 20, 2009 / 05:13:40
@Debbie: Just checking. ;0)
@kaolin: Of course. (And i've entered one now.)
Friday, February 20, 2009 / 10:01:08
Since I'm at avid boater and we go on many scub trips throughout the year mine would have to be something like Frankenfish.
Friday, February 20, 2009 / 11:01:25
Frankenfish would do the job. Nessie wouldn't harm a soul. She's just misunderstood. My leg would probably be gnawed off by that formaldehyde-mutated amphibian-fish creature from The Host. Thank you for the chance to win.
Saturday, February 21, 2009 / 02:59:20
I'll say the Kongamato cause I might get some flight out of it.
Saturday, February 21, 2009 / 15:33:46
The Bunyip.

It would be exciting, to say the least
Sunday, February 22, 2009 / 16:55:30

Sounds like a great book. Great contest.

Monday, February 23, 2009 / 05:31:43
Girlzilla - she'd probably stay and chat with me for a bit after gnawing to make me feel better. :)
Monday, February 23, 2009 / 10:13:20

I'm afraid that doesn't count as a valid entry. To be entered into the draw, you need to answer the question :).
Saturday, February 28, 2009 / 09:26:26
If my leg has to be gnawed off I'd pick bigfoot, i suppose he'd be a meat eater
Saturday, February 28, 2009 / 09:53:20
SPRING HEEL JACK - my choice, it'll be slow and painful
Sunday, March 1, 2009 / 06:18:24
The leg has to go, huh? I think I'd pick the Yeti. It'd be cold and maybe I wouldn't feel it as much.
Sunday, March 1, 2009 / 15:53:29
the chupacabra, stop sucking on that goat and eat my leg
Sunday, March 1, 2009 / 23:43:26
I think I would pick the Abominable Snowman, simply because I can't say that without messing up. Personally, don't really want leg eaten off, but if the Abominable Snowman does it, maybe I will freeze to death before feeling it.
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 02:07:35
Could I skip leg gnawing, and go straight to being pummeled by Bigfoot (especially if I could have it videotaped)? Least favorite crypto-encounter would be being raped by the Popobawa.
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 10:38:08
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 10:43:43
Hmm. Garrettsambo, can you elucidate some? Not even the mighty Google knows what you mean. ;) It asks "Did you mean: Crockonadillion", but then serves up 0 results for that as well.

Monday, March 2, 2009 / 12:07:03
I have to agree that the Yeti would be my choice. Maybe if I am half frozen I won't feel the gnawing quite so much.
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 15:04:50
Alec Baldwin!
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 15:05:53
Umm. Not sure that's admissible!
Monday, March 2, 2009 / 15:33:31
I think it needs explanation at least :)
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 / 00:07:38
Could I have a unicorn gnaw my leg off? At least I could admire its beauty while I writhe in pain. =*0
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 / 03:38:02
Great set of entries :). Thanks, all!

And the winner (chosen using is fcsdave. Congratulations!

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