Genre: Scifi; Horror; Thriller
The story begins at an abandoned overgrown trail with the scary name of ‘The Devils Tail’. The trail lies a few miles southeast of Portland Oregon. The trail has been around for several years and has many frightening rumors associated with it about why people disappeared while hiking the trail. Two childhood friends get together and chat about the trail. One of the friends, Janet Johnson, an experienced hiker wants to hike the trail and the other Bob Wild is terrified of the trail and doesn’t want to hike it. Bob tells Janet that the reason he is doesn’t want to hike it is because people who hiked the trail never came back. Janet thinks this is silly and just rumors. She finally convinces Bob to reluctantly go with her on the trail. The two of them set out on a thrilling and frightening adventure of a lifetime. What they encounter changes their lives forever. The hike encompasses the interactions of people from two different worlds and the meeting of a Charles Manson type leader who thinks he is God.
It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but when I did, I was hooked. Presented in a simplistic style that becomes fast-paced once the initial setting is in place, “The Trail in the Woods” is an easy yet entirely intriguing read. If you’re like me, you prefer books that instead of going overboard with fancy descriptions, focus on the actual events of the story-line which is exactly what Stanley Straub’s writing style does.
My only real complaint is that sometimes the dialogue becomes repetitive. Other than that, I absolutely loved the story. It is a science fiction with elements of horror, romance, and even some comical relief. I particularly like the contrast between the two main characters, Bob and Janet. While Janet is a strong and nearly fearless woman, it is Bob who is less certain and must overcome his fear throughout the course of the book.
That being said, Tom is without doubt my favorite character. It is with this mental patient that the reader is first introduced to the jovial situations of the story despite his own sad history. Unlike much media, however, I did not get a feeling of ignorance concerning mental illness with his character. The author did well in presenting thoughts that may seem stereotypical without making psychiatric patients (such as myself) feel patronized or disrespected.
********BELOW ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE PLOT/EVENTS AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS; WHILE I TRY TO REMAIN AS VAGUE AS I CAN, DO NOT READ IF YOU THINK IT MAY RUIN YOUR READING EXPERIENCE********
One final thought on the subject of Tom: When first presented, we see a man appearing to be at loss with reality, doped up on tranquilizers and other medication while acting extremely paranoid and delusional. As the story progresses, however, and Tom goes without the pills and shots, his behavior is shown to become more stable while his previous ‘delusions’ are proven to be factual.
I particularly like this bit because (intentionally or not) it plays on the never-ending debate as to whether the effects of psychotropic drugs are truly useful or whether they are simply used to control a problem (mental illness) rather than effectively solve it. Readers, please remember that this is a work of fiction (and my thoughts on) and not meant to replace the advice of doctors.
This trio is introduced into a realm of terrifying creatures as they explore the trail in the woods aka ‘the Devils Tail.’ They find a self-proclaimed paradise completely under control of a sentient beast known as the ‘Tribulator’ who seems fully convicted that he is, in fact, God and Creator. Nonetheless, Bob and Janet are not convinced, seeing that it is simply the alien being’s advanced technologies that allow him to fool others into believing his incredible claims.
What I find most interesting is the author’s description of how horrifying the Tribulator’s appearance is, in contrast to the charm typically associated with cult leaders; a charm that the character does possess in personality. This may not have been the author’s intention, but the feeling I got was that this was meant to display outwardly the toxicity of such people.
Had Charles Manson been so terribly demonic in appearance, would he have so easily fooled such a grand amount of victims? And while the Tribulator employs terror tactics that are at the very least, morally questionable, it seems that he isn’t violent and in his misguided heart, truly believes he is helping both those of his species and the humans of Earth. So while those akin to Manson fully intend to employ violence, the Tribulator did not; another interesting contrast.
I expected one of two outcomes as I neared the end of the book yet somehow, the author wrote neither, leaving his audience captivated even after the main events and climax were wrapped up. I look forward to reading more from Stanley Straub and encourage you to take a look at “The Trail in the Woods.”
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden
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