Shadow on the Sun – Richard Matheson

Shadow on the Sun Richard Matheson is a writer who doesn’t need a big introduction. Among his most famous novels which were later adapted for the big screen are A Stir of Echoes, I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come. Famous horror writer Stephen King cites Matheson as “the author who influenced me the most as a writer”. It was this quote on the front cover that caught my eye at the bookstore, and the intriguing blurb at the back – a story set a century ago, Apaches, and a mysterious man “who may not be entirely human”.

The story starts with a meeting between a group of Apaches led by chief Braided Feather, and representatives of the U.S. government. Some of the important characters in the story are introduced right away – Billjohn Finley and David Boutelle among them. They have gathered to sign a treaty, which is followed shortly by the death of two young men who are discovered not long after the act, a fact which puts the whole treaty under question as the Apaches are blamed for their deaths. The men’s older brother is intent on revenge, and when he sees the strange tall man wearing the clothes of one of his brothers, he realizes he’s found the killer. But the stranger is after one man, the Night Doctor, and everybody who stands in his way is bound to end up dead. Who is the strange man, whose neck bears a savage scar, whose words came out as if he’d just learned to speak, and whose sight makes men lose their courage? There is no bullet that can stop him, no man who can stand in his way – his appearance strikes horror among people, and even the Apaches are afraid of him. Why else would they abandon their camp and seek refuge elsewhere?

This story gave me nightmares but I loved it. It’s told in a straightforward way, building on the suspense, and even if some scenes were predictable, the horror and savagery certainly made up for this little disadvantage. Matheson has incorporated into the story well-known elements of a Western – a tribe of American Indians complete with a shaman (or Night Doctor), an Apache whose drinking problem has kept him away from his people, an American who is able to see things in their true light and tries to keep peace between the two nations. I liked the book for its mystery, for the bravery of its characters, and not least of all for reminding me of the great Apache chief Winnetou, from the novel with the same name by Karl May, a novel I loved as a teenager. This may not be a novel with passages to swoon over but at a little over 200 pages long it’s a good story and a great choice for fans of the horror and Western genre.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Read in May, 2014


ACW badge 2 In other news, Angela Carter Week starts this Sunday, the 8th of June, a reading event I’m co-hosting with Caroline@beautyisasleepingcat as part of the Once Upon a Time challenge. For more details, including a list of Angela Carter’s books, please follow this link. A big thank you to those who have decided to join us and helped by spreading the word. If you’d like to be a part of this you’re more than welcome, just leave a comment and I’ll include your blog in the list. Also, if you decided not to participate after all, please let me know and I’ll delete your name from the list (but I hope that won’t happen).

The participants (so far):

Caroline @ Beautyisasleepingcat
Delia @ Postcards from Asia
TJ @ mybookstrings
Vishy @ vishytheknight
Fleur @ Fleur in her World
Priya @ Tabula Rasa
Vasilly @ classicvasilly
Helen @ shereadsnovels
Brona @ bronasbooks
Brian @ briansbabblingbooks
TBM @ 50yearproject
Yasmine Rose @ Yasmine Rose’s Book Blog
Stu @ Winstonsdad’s Blog
Kailana @ The Written World
Ellie @ Lit Nerd
Cathy @ 746books
Violet @ Still Life With Books
Candiss @ Read the Gamut
Mel U @ The Reading Life
Pearls & Prose
Danielle @ A Work in Progress

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11 Responses to Shadow on the Sun – Richard Matheson

  1. I really like the films that have been based upon his books and he also wrote an episode of the Original Star Trek series. I have not actually read anything by him. I want to read him.

    This one sounds really good if only for the fact that you found it so scary. It is also a seems a little different as there have been horror stories that were also Westerns but the ones that I am aware of seem to have fallen a bit flat.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I like the films, too. I’ve read Stir of Echoes years ago and liked it a lot, but I don’t remember details. I hope you get to read him.

      The book was scary but not as much as Blood Meridian by McCarthy. That one was downright repulsive in the description of unbelievable horrific scenes. It had some beautiful writing too, which made for a weird combination.

  2. Vishy says:

    This book looks quite fascinating, Delia! Your review makes me want to find out more about the main character. This book also makes me remember the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’, in which the main character is an intriguing figure in a similar way. As Cormac McCarthy’s novel is a more recent one compared to Richard Matheson’s, it makes me think whether McCarthy got inspired by Matheson. I have read one book by Matheson – ‘I am Legend’ – and liked it. I have also seen a movie called ‘The Duel’ for which the script was written by Matheson. I loved the way the movie was minimalist and still made one feel scared. Have you seen this movie? I also loved the Star Trek episode which Matheson wrote, which Brian has mentioned.

    Thanks for writing about this book, Delia. I will add it to my wishlist.

    Thanks for hosting Angela Carter Week 🙂 I am so excited! Can’t wait for 8th June to arrive!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      It’s a good book, I hope you get to read it, I know you’ll like it.
      I haven’t seen No Country for Old Men but maybe I will. For some reason the trailer I watched looks more depressing than scary.
      I’ve only recently found out about The Duel, that’s a movie I’ll add to my list, thanks for telling me about it.

      I’m glad you are joining us for the event, Vishy. Looking forward to Sunday. 🙂

  3. Caroline says:

    This sounds excellent, Delia. I’ve never read him but maybe this will be my first.
    I’m looking foward to Angela Carter Week. I’ve set up a post with a Mr Linky.
    Will you do the same?
    Thanks for the list of participants.

  4. Priya says:

    I loved I am Legend and also liked A Stir of Echoes. This does sound interesting, but the fact that it gave you nightmares makes me want to shelf it off for later! Not in the mood for too much horror or darkness – so I’ll stick to just Angela Carter for now. I’m so glad you’re hosting the event, I wouldn’t have tried her otherwise!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Priya,
      If it gave me nightmares it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same reaction. 🙂 I hope you take it off the shelf and read it soon.
      I’m glad you decided to sign up for the event, I hope you enjoy her books!

  5. Pingback: Best books of 2014 | Postcards from Asia

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