Smolder by Michael R. Goodwin

Divorced and about to lose his home to foreclosure, Eric decides to take a late night walk to clear his head. Not thinking about what might be lurking in the shadows, he soon finds out that you are never truly alone in the woods.

The IndieMuse Review

I’m a big fan of the ‘Creature Feature’, both in film and literature, and Michael R. Goodwin has crafted a truly unique entry into this well-trod sub-genre with his latest novella, Smolder.

Eric and Monica have been saving for their dream home for years. A remote ranch-style house with no neighbours for miles around. The purchase of their new house turns out to be bittersweet when Monica leaves Eric for another man, leaving Eric alone in a home he can no longer afford.

When drinking alone on his porch, as the bills continue to pile up and his power has been switched off, he decides to go for an ill-advised late-night walk in the woods. Unbeknownst to him, there is something waiting for him there. Something ancient, evil, and hungry.

While I went in expecting a standard but undeniably entertaining man versus monster showdown, that isn’t quite what I got. Although there is an exciting and action-packed prologue that gives us a taste of what’s to come, there is a great deal of time in the first half of the book spent getting to know the three lead characters. Although there is something of the stereotypical about them (an alcoholic divorcee, abusive new boyfriend and abused former spouse) there is comfort in the familiarity and it did set expectations for the story ahead which were promptly subverted.

Where Smolder really shines is in its approach to the book’s antagonist. The creature is a unique concept, incredibly threatening whenever its presence is felt. A large portion of the book’s second half is made up of a cat and mouse game between Eric and the titular Smolder and Goodwin manages to wring a lot of tension out of the chase. The author doesn’t rely on tension without offering some payoff, however, and there are some genuinely disturbing scenes and unsettling imagery, almost bizarre in its inventive unpleasantness. If you are looking for gore, there isn’t much but what is present is memorable indeed.

The readers ultimate opinion of the book may be swayed by how they feel about the big finale. Things begin to get much bigger, almost cosmic in scale and the final few chapters are surreal and dreamlike, a complete antithesis to the stock characterizations and familiar horror set up in the early sections, and this left turn is all the more effective for the fact that there are certain expectations set by this familiarity that are soundly disregarded for a much more unexpected and unusual ending.

Smolder may leave fans looking for a straightforward creature feature disappointed with its big concepts and bold ideas that creep in as the story unfolds but if you can go in ready for something truly different then Smolder has a lot to offer outside of the usual fare on the menu when man takes on nature.


Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

Curation Results: Smolder

Curator Notes: "Bold, unique presentation of the popular creature feature packed nicely in a novella-length book." —Deathdealer

This title has been officially certified by indiemuse reviewers and curators as a recommended read. Read about our certification process here.

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