The Tie-Ins That Bind: A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer the Children by David Bishop

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It’s October and here at The Omniplex, it’s a month I’ve waited a long time for: A Nightmare on Elm Street month! I am finally looking at the five Freddy Krueger novels published by Black Flame. This is something I wanted to do all along but the cost was prohibitive. But with the books getting bootlegs, I’m finally able to cover them all. So let’s begin.

Why is Freddy Krueger my favorite slasher? Easy. While Michael and Jason are mute brutes who symbolize the unknowable and unstoppable, Freddy is the human evil. He’s a child predator with a rich personality. Freddy symbolizes the failures of the baby boom. They neglected their children. Freddy preyed on them. Then when they struck back in mob form, he found a way to strike where they can’t do anything. He doesn’t prey on the baby boomers, I stress, but he’s the consequences of their deeds in the next generation. Freddy is global warming, the economy, COVID-19, the alt-right, the weakness of American liberalism. Freddy is real evil and that’s horrifying.

But more than that, Freddy has the most fun structure for a series. His world is dreams, the literal endless realm. You can tell any scenario you want here. Nothing is off limits. Deaths can be absurd and wild because of it. This is a dream for tie-in novels, a chance for the writers to just go wild with a broad structure.

So it’s weird we’ve only had five straight novels and an anthology I covered two years ago. There’s also a series of novels where Freddy serves as the “host” which I have yet to read but which are probably quite good since they’re by the great David Bergantino. Why so little? Probably rights issues. That’s why I’ve strained to find these. But what we have? It rules. There’s some good, some not as good, but by and large it rocks.

And oh do we start with a kickass book.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer the Children by David Bishop is a prime example of why I adore tie-in books. It’s an obscenely good Freddy Krueger story with great characters, a fun plot, and completely crushes the tone you’re expecting. It’s the kind of book that were it actually a movie in the series, would be a high level entry and that’s not a low bar.

The plot is vintage ANOES. A group of teens take a drug for insomnia and fall prey to Freddy. They come away from the encounter with powers but they get picked off one by one. Lots of dream sequence killings follow.

This is as I said a prime example of why I love these books and I want to go into why. This is a thick book. All of the Black Flame books are, some much worse than others. (Jason X: Death Moon may be a series.) It runs 77,000 words after all, over the 50K norm. And it uses that space in two ways.

First, the characters are really well crafted. I’ll touch on this again with these but the writers take the time to make you care very deeply about the victims. Bishop is no exception. He gives every character a rich backstory and they stand out. Given how often the norm is to create characters you’re excited to see die, I’m glad for the opposite.

Bishop also goes all in on the kills. Like I said, Freddy has the best kills and these are gloriously complex scenes. I don’t want to spoil any. I want you to go into these worlds. Just know you get what you (don’t) pay for. The thing is, these feel like there’s no budget holding Bishop back. He gets elaborate.

There’s another thing I really want to point out. This book has atmosphere to burn. Bishop gets that the hell of ANOES is the failure of previous generations. At best, they’re indifferent. At worst, they’re destructive. This permeates the book. He might love the characters he creates but he hates the world they’re in. It’s effective.

And it’s here I have to note I was actually quite familiar with Bishop coming in. He’s a 2000AD veteran. He’s written extensively for it. He’s written Judge Dredd novels and several Big Finish radio dramas. I’m a huge Dredd fan and he kills there. I bring it up to say that there’s a very 2000AD tone to this book. That dark satirical nihilism and sleaze is a perfect fit for Freddy Krueger.

Suffer the Children is a hard book to talk about because it’s just good. It delivers what I wanted. And amazingly it’s quite different from the next few books I’ll cover. They’re all ok to great but this is the classic Freddy book of the set. We’re about to have a lot of fun looking at different iterations. For now, check it out.

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