BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Matt Kearns goes to a remote shack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to mourn his father’s death. Instead he battles an invisible creature.
PROS: Action-packed; masterfully rendered setting.
CONS: Not for nature haters.
BOTTOM LINE: A thriller with a heart and an environmental conscience.
Michael Hodges’ debut novel, The Puller, is an action-packed creature feature with an environmental conscience.
After losing his father, girlfriend, and childhood dog, Matt Kearns heads to his family’s remote shack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for “nine days of peace and quiet” in the hopes of figuring out his life. Matt is a twenty-one-year-old Chicagoan who developed his love of the outdoors from his father and their trips to the Ottawa National Forest, a “million sprawling acres of undeveloped federal land on the Wisconsin/Michigan border.”
But something evil lurks in the U.P. Moose in the area are disappearing at alarming rates and dying in strange and vomit-inducing ways. At the same time the forest shows signs of an impending ecological disaster.
It isn’t long before Matt becomes plaything of an invisible monster, aka The Puller, who traps him in the surrounding area of his beloved cabin. Every time Matt tries to escape, the creature “pulls” hims back onto the property. What he does to anything or anyone else who enters the property is much worse.
The Puller (published by Severed Press) delivers thrill after thrill as Matt and the mysterious creature engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse. With very little to go on, Matt must figure out the creature’s weaknesses — if he has any — while trying desperately to stave off starvation and dehydration — and madness.
Still, the shack and the woods hold good memories and Matt finds solace in the past, as he remembers those idyllic trips with his family and friends to the great outdoors.
But where the story really sparkles is Hodges’ masterful descriptions of the U.P. In lush and vivid detail he draws the reader into the woods and takes them on a scenic tour of the Michigan wilderness. The Puller is like a field guide of the Ottawa National Forest. But while Hodges lovingly describes the endangered wilderness, he also scares the crap out of you, so you may want to hold off on that hike.
The Puller is about the brutal and beautiful power of nature and the importance of respecting it. The book not only has scares — it has a heart.