Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Association by Bentley Little
Released: September 2001

I usually devote the entire autumn season to horror, but this year, I've gotten an early start. Bentley Little is another horror novelist I can't stop obsessing about. His work is so creepy.

Check out the back cover synopsis for The Association. Isn't the summary irresistible?

Congratulations, Barry and Maureen: You've been approved by the Association and are encouraged to move into your exclusive gated community as soon as possible. Please be aware that we reserve the right to approve your decor, your landscaping, your friends, and your job. All relationships with neighbors should be avoided. Any interference from the outside will not be tolerated. Any attempt to leave will be stopped. Any infraction of the rules could result in severe fines, physical punishment, or death. Please send all other inquiries to the house on the hill. Preferably before dark. P.S. You're being watched.


The most hellish residential community on Earth

Horror novelist Barry Welch and his wife Maureen have just purchased a lovely home in Bonita Vista -- a beautiful residential gated community that overlooks the small town of Corban, Utah. Their new neighborhood seems too good to be true -- it's quiet and peaceful enough for Barry to churn out horror novels, and the community's residents are welcoming and friendly. But after the couple settle in and host a garage sale, a representative from the homeowner's association stops by to remind them that yard sales are prohibited in Bonita Vista according to the rules and regulations. This time, the Welches are let off with a warning, but little does the married couple know that yard sales aren't the only commonplace act prohibited in the neighborhood.

As time goes by, it seems as if the Welches just can't go one day without hearing from The Association about how they're violating community rules. Barry is not allowed to work from home, Maureen is not allowed to grow her own produce in the garden of their own backyard, and nobody is allowed to own pets. Refusing to allow The Association to dictate their lives, Barry and Maureen continue to go about their daily routines, but the rules continue to get weirder and more restrictive.

They aren't allowed to have visitors with ethnic backgrounds, and they aren't even allowed to have children. The Association has even implanted cameras in everyone's homes to keep an eye on residents at all times, even when they're using the bathroom and having sex. Pets, children, and residents who disobey the rules are found mutilated, or simply vanish and are never seen or heard from again.

Homeowners get even

Desperate to leave Bonita Vista and start anew in another community, Barry and Maureen meet with their real estate agent to have their home put back on the market. Unfortunately, Barry and Maureen had apparently signed a document agreeing to the terms enforced by The Association. Trapped in Bonita Vista, Barry decides to challenge the president of the homeowner's association in a battle that ultimately ends in crazy bloodshed.

So much going on in this book

There is a LOT going on in The Association! But all of it's relevant, and fits perfectly into this novel. Near the beginning of the novel, Barry goes for a walk on the neighborhood trail and runs into "Stumpy" -- a man with no limbs or tongue who wears a dirty, bloodied diaper and flops around the forest moaning and wailing. Feeling disturbed and shocked, Barry races home only to learn from his neighbors that Stumpy is accepted by the community and considered a "normal" fixture. Apparently, Stumpy doesn't bother anyone, and nobody cares that he wiggles around in the forest in a bloody diaper. WHAT?! How's that for a nightmare?

The Association is mainly about how Barry, Maureen, and select other community members are penalized by the homeowner's association for violating absurd community rules. Bentley Little takes common everyday woes and frustrations associated with living in a regulated community and exaggerates them by 10,000%. The result is one of the scariest horror novels you'll ever read.

Barry is a horror novelist!

I love that Barry's character is a horror novelist. He makes a reference to having been mentored by Phillip Emmons, which is actually a real-life pseudonym for Bentley Little. I got a real kick out of that. I also love how Barry uses the fact he's an author to justify his quirky personality and theories about what's going on in Bonita Vista. As a writer myself, I found myself agreeing with Barry and finding similarities in our personalities. I couldn't help but love this book for that reason alone, but of course, the novel itself gave me more than I expected. I finished The Association almost a week ago, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about how creepy it was. I loved everything about it, and I can't wait to dive into the other books I own by Bentley Little!

If you've ever lived in an apartment or condo, or paid dues to a homeowner's association, you will probably appreciate The Association -- especially if you like horror. This one is not to be missed!

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