THE VISITOR by Sergio Gomez

the-visitor-by-sergio-gomezIn the proverbial middle of nowhere a group of travelers wait out a severe snowstorm inside of a diner. Inside they find warmth and food and drink and casual conversation. Most of them quickly develop the quick camaraderie commonly found between people sharing in a particular, peculiar experience. They are hopeful the rough weather will disperse before long, allowing them to continue their particular journeys. ⠀

A fellow traveler will soon be trying to join them, however, one with less than benevolent intentions in mind — and the group will quickly realize that there are far more dangerous things outside than the miserable elements.⠀

You know, I’ve never really associated the holiday season with horror. Dwell on it enough and it does begin to make a perverse sort of sense, though. Fiction centered around the holidays (and around Christmas especially) is brimming with stories about disparate groups of people finding themselves stuck in an isolated, often claustrophobic setting, after all, and that is as traditional a horror set-up as you can get. Why not just throw a monster into the mix?⠀

The monster in The Visitor, a novella by Sergio Gomez, arrives in the shape of an alien, coming to terrorize our protagonists. Despite the otherworldly antagonist and the wintry setting however, this story is less The Thing than it is Predator, as we quickly find out this creature wants to join in on the Yautja fun by trying to hunt down our core characters one by one.⠀

This being a brief sojourn of a story, my only expectation was to have a good time — a prospect that was indeed met. Gomez has written a tight tale that boasts a breakneck pace, while also somehow finding the space to develop the characters enough that we can recognize and sympathize with their plight. Not an easy thing to do in less than a hundred pages, but Gomez did a creditable job with the material.⠀

If there is one thing I found lacking was the monster itself, especially in terms of its appearance. Gomez keeps it understandably vague, but the impression that we can glean from the details he does drop ends up being… a tiny bit goofy. This is disappointing seeing as how the cover depicts what looks like a traditional Grey alien, which is an image that has always haunted and disturbed me (hullo, my name is Rick, and Whitley Strieber’s Communion is one of the most terrifying books I have ever read). I would have found the story much more effective and unsettling if we got the same spindly extraterrestrial inside the story itself. But I confess that this is more of a personal preference than it is actual criticism.⠀

The Visitor is a fun and bloody ride that makes for some excellent holiday reading.

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