Have a Hazardous Christmas

Author: Ben Farthing

Doug is a child who LOVES Christmas. His family enjoyed celebrating it, until the year when his little sister wandered away on Christmas Eve only to be found dead on Christmas. After that, his parents divorced themselves from the lights and celebration. No more Christmas Trees. No more presents. No more Rudolph specials. Where the holiday used to glow brightly, now there is only loss and dimness. Doug wants to bring back Christmas to his parents and remind them that they still have him. This will be the year. He’ll create a beautiful display on a nearby, empty house. His parents will see it, and, as the old story goes, their hearts will grow several sizes . . . He’ll get his family back. He won’t be empty anymore.

Except, this is a Ben Farthing story, so you know that’s not what happens! Instead, some not-red and not-purple lights twist their way out of the gutter. Doug finds them and thinks they’ll be the perfect touch for his decorated house. Instead, they bring some holiday horror, complete with demonic carolers and Christmas decorations to die for! As Doug and his friends run through the neighborhood, trying to outrun the advancing and ever more weird holiday decorations, they hatch a daring plan. But is it too late? Is this Doug’s last ever Christmas? Are the evil alien entities here for him? Will those disembodied eyes in the ornaments go back to their original owner?

What I really love about this the I Found Horror series is that Farthing goes all the way into the land of the wacky and surreal. We started with puppets in the wall, moved to circus tents in the woods, and now here we are with kudzu-like Christmas decorations seeking fresh blood. It’s fun, but also somehow eerie. Farthing creates this atmosphere partly through embracing the weirdness and the child-like fears buried in our subconscious, but also through addressing some raw adult emotions. In I Found Puppets Living In My Apartment Walls we’re dealing with grief and loss (of childhood and of a grandparent); in I Found Circus Tents In the Woods Behind My House we’re grappling with a father’s fear of failing his son. Here in I Found Christmas Lights Slithering Up My Street we’re back to grief through the eyes of a child who is missing his sister, but also wanting his parents to love him again. The peculiar medium of horror only exacerbates the emotions underneath, making this a creative and surprisingly powerful way to explore complex phycological needs and fears.

Image by Erik G from Pixabay

That being said, this was actually my least favorite in the series, although arguably it has THE BEST NAME OF ANY BOOK EVER. While the emotions are strong here and the main character is 100% empathetic . . . it gets repetitive. I got a little tired of them running away from weird color changing Christmas lights, and I also wanted a little more from the ending: from the parents, from the horror in the sewer, etc. Also, the conclusion was quite deus ex machina, even for this series. Come on, everybody is suddenly ok in the end?  Some of them were literarily chopped up and put into Christmas lights. How are you mutilated and dead and then in the next scene, totally ok again? Even the psychedelic world of Farthing’s nightmares demands some logic and some lasting consequences. The sister has staid dead, the neighbors and friends needed to meet their own untimely demises.

Oh . . . and the parents wouldn’t come around that quickly. We needed way more from that reunion and a much heavier hitting moral around Ben’s realization that he didn’t die with his sister and his parents needed to accept that and give him the love and attention he deserved.

Still, despite the imperfections, I Found Christmas Lights is another solid offering, fun and bizarre. Once again, Ben Farthing does what he does best: gets really weird with everything.


– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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