Scatology – Sea Caummisar

Everybody wants to be the best, but there’s about 8 billion people in the world now, and doing anything better than all of those people is pretty damn tough. At the same time, given the amount of people that we’re competing against, it’s also an achievement to be the worst at something.

When I saw the cover of this book, I knew I was looking at an absolute. I am entirely confident in saying that this splatterpunk novella has the worst cover of any book in existence. Now splatterpunk is an “extreme” genre, and I’ve included splatterpunk books before with suitably outrageous covers that were designed to revolt, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s not just the idea behind this cover that’s awful; the execution is also comically inept. The original cover is so gross that I’m only going to embed an edited version in this post. This is a classy blog after all.

Original image here. (You might not even notice the difference.)

Yes. The actual cover of this book is a photograph of some shit and piss in a toilet bowl. It’s clearly a real photograph. There has been no photoshopping or trying to make it look arty or anything. Somebody used their phone to take a picture of their poo before they wiped their bum, and the picture ended up on the cover of a book. The title of the book is presented in the most childish looking typeface imaginable, and the text is all brown.

I did a reverse image search on the cover, and I could not find the original photograph without the text. I didn’t look super hard, but the lack of a match suggests that the image was not the result of a google search. It seems more likely that it was actually taken for the cover of the book. Did the mysterious Sea Caummisar take a picture of her own turds for the cover of her book? As gross as that seems, I would have more respect for a person who would do that than I would for a person who would get somebody else to do it for them.

Ok, I’ve talked enough about the book’s shitty cover. What about the book itself?

I actually have mixed feelings about it.

I try not to be judgemental about what happens between two consenting adults, but poo eating is really fucking gross. I don’t like thinking about it. I mean, obviously, it’s really, really funny that people do it, but I only ever want to think of it in terms of humour. Reading about people getting off to poo made me feel a bit sick. At one point near the beginning of the book when the protagonist is rubbing poo over a prostitute’s tits, I started to wonder if this was actually just shit-porn that had been mistakenly labelled horror. I was grossed out, so I took a break and came back to it a few hours later.

I’m glad I did because the next part of the book was actually really funny. The story is about Luke, a scat fetishist who meets a prostitute who lets him rub shit on her. He is jealous of her junky boyfriend, so he kidnaps him to get him out of the picture. While strung out and tied up in the back of Luke’s car, the junky boyfriend shits his britches. When Luke notices, he gets a huge boner, and a lot of the rest of the book consists of Luke wondering if getting off on “man crap” makes him gay. I laughed whenever this came up, and it came up quite a bit. The very blunt use of language made it all the funnier:

“Luke enjoyed the smell of the man’s messed pants and removed them for his own keeping.”

“After telling himself that enjoying a man’s poo didn’t make him gay, he raised the pants to his nose and inhaled a deep whiff.”

“It [a corpse’s mouth] wasn’t warm or wet, but the thought of her poo breath caused him to instantly blow his load down her throat”

Like I said, I think that people eating poo is really gross, but I also think it’s the root of all good comedy. I had a hearty chuckle at these and many other lines in this book. I’m laughing as I write this. “messed pants”…classic!

The book itself is gross-out trash, but it made me laugh quite a few times. Sea Caummisar has written a lot of books, and she publishes them herself as far as I can tell. The cover of this book sucks, but this is a DIY release. The ineptitude is part of the charm. I don’t like reviewing new books because I’m always afraid that the author will see what I’ve written and feel disheartened. Sea Caummisar, if you read this review and think I’m a dickhead, you’re right. I am a dickhead, but I got a good laugh out of your book, and I sincerely hope you continue to write horror. I was in no way disappointed by this book, and I am glad I read it. Here’s a link to Sea’s books on Amazon for anyone who’s interested.

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector
Bantam – 1986


Last Thursday, I was sitting in bed after a stressful day’s work, trying to read a dense Thomas Ligotti story. I read the first paragraph about 3 times then gave up. I like Ligotti, but he’s not easy reading. I needed something a little less demanding. I flicked through my kindle and settled on The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector. Part of the reason I chose this one was that I thought it was a short novel, maybe 180 pages. Also, I knew that this book is often heralded as the first splatterpunk novel. The splatterpunk I’ve read has all been pretty straight forward, so this seemed like a good choice.

First off, it’s not short. Paper copies of this book run to almost 400 pages. I was a bit annoyed when I realised this, but I was already invested, so I plowed through.

Otherwise, this was pretty much what I expected; vampires in New York. There’s lots of violence and dated/cringey pop culture references. (There’s a section in which one of the characters paraphrases a scene in The Shining.) I think that I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had been younger when I was reading it.

Also, while I’m sure that the authors did not intend this book to be homophobic, there’s something about the nonchalant way that the characters make fun of their gay friend that will probably rub a lot of modern readers the wrong way. The guy who is getting made fun of is one of the good guys, and everyone actually likes him, but he is repeatedly called a faggot by his coworkers. He’s not integral to the plot and clearly only included for comic relief, and this made the playful abuse he suffers a bit uncomfortable to read. This book was written in the 80s though, and it ultimately depicts the gay characters as likeable, useful members of society, so I don’t think it’s time to retroactively cancel Skipp and Spector.

So, yes. This book reads like it was written for 1980s teenagers. It’s a bit dumb and quite dated. However, I think I already mentioned that I only read this because I needed something easy to digest before bed, and I have to admit, this did the trick. It’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I had previously read Skipp and Spector’s The Scream, and I reckon that The Light at the End is actually a better book. Yeah, there’s still too many characters, but this one has a more focused story line. I’m not going to rush out to read more Skipp and Spector collaborations, but I’m definitely not going to write off the ones I already have on my shelf/kindle.

Spawn – Shaun Hutson

Sometimes a cover is so good that you have to read the book.

Spawn – Shaun Hutson
Leisure Books – 1988 (First published 1983)

I read Chainsaw Terror last year, and I knew that Shaun Hutson isn’t really known for writing hi-brow literature, but I have to admit, I was appalled at this book.

I generally like to know as little as possible about a book before I read it, and so aside from knowing that this book would probably include a mean baby, I had no idea what it was actually about. I’m going to provide a summary next, so if you’re like me, you might want to read the novel before continuing with this post. If, however, you have a sense of decency, you might be better off with my brief synopsis.

Harold Pierce, a badly traumatised and developmentally challenged burn victim gets a job in a hospital. He is assigned the role of loading the hospital’s aborted fetuses into a furnace. The fetuses remind Harold of his baby brother who died in a fire that he started, and so instead of burning them he sneaks them out of the hospital and buries them. This is gross-out horror, but so far the story is merely tragic. The whole aborted fetuses motif is immediately repugnant, but there’s no malice at play so far. Harold is damaged; he’s not evil.

Then there’s a big storm. A bolt of lightning knocks down a powerline right beside where the fetuses are buried, and the electricity from the lightning and the power cables is sent directly into the shallow grave. The electricity burns the earth and grass around the grave, but it somehow manages to bring the fetuses back to life. It also gives them psychic powers and a thirst for blood.

Yep.

Honestly, I was actually impressed with the plot. Hutson clearly did not give a shit. “Hmmmm, I need some way to reanimate these rotten abortions so they can kill a bunch of people… Voodoo? Nah, too ethnic… Scientific experiment gone wrong? Far too complicated… Fuck it. A bolt of lightning. That’ll do.”

Oh, and there’s a serial killer on the loose too. You spend the whole novel wondering how he’s going to fit in with the vampire abortions, but they barely interact. I reckon the murderer bit was only included so that Hutson could have some gory scenes at the beginning of the book. The killer is also a victim of neglect and child abuse.

I’ve read plenty of repugnant splatterpunk horror fiction, but this one is distasteful in a special way. Some gross-out horror is tough to get through because the authors seem like they’re trying hard to be super offensive, but Spawn is such a puerile mess that at times I got the sense that Hutson might not have even realised he was being offensive. Writing fiction about abortions seems like a hazardous venture for any writer, and I can’t imagine any sensible adult with any kind of stance on the abortion debate actually wanting to read a novel about aborted fetuses. Couple this with the fact that the two main characters are disfigured, developmentally challenged, traumatized victims of abuse. The whole thing is in very poor taste. The saving grace of the book is that there is clearly no message to it. Hutson is not trying to force his views on anyone.

Unfortunately though, the book is actually pretty fuckin’ shit. I found myself skimming large chunks of it. The characters are so flat that I wasn’t able to give a damn about them, and the suspenseful scenes were formulaic and uninteresting. The book is 288 pages long, and I reckon a good third of it could have been edited out

All that being said, I was entertained by this piece of deplorable, degenerate trash, and I am entirely certain that I will read more of Shaun Hutson’s work in the future. I know he wrote a sequel to this just a few years ago, but I probably won’t bother with that one.

Another great cover. W.H. Allen, 1983

Joe R. Lansdale’s God of the Razor (The Nightrunners, Blood and Shadows…)

A friend of mine recently suggested that I read Joe R. Lansdale’s The Nightrunners. I had been planning to read Lansdale’s The Drive-In books for a while, but I have been holding off because there is 3 of them, and that seems like a big commitment. The Nightrunners looked like a short, standalone text, and the name was familiar. I started that evening. I am now a Follower of the Razor.

The Nightrunners – Joe R. Lansdale
Tor – 1989 (First published 1987)


This book is nasty. It’s about a gang of horribly messed up teenagers trying to kill their teacher. They’re spurred on by the God of the Razor, a particularly unpleasant interdimensional entity who likes seeing people bleed.

The only other Lansdale I’d read before this was his story in the first Splatterpunks anthology, and I’m pretty sure that this novel far exceeds that tale in terms of graphic violence. This book contains multiple scenes of sadistic torture and sexual assault. It’s fucking good though. It’s a hard one to put down once you’ve started. Reading the car chase towards the end of the book is just as exciting as watching it on a cinema screen would be.

There’s one bit in here that describes the evil teenagers as “high on fire, blood and hate”. When I came across this phrase, I thought it might have been where that band High on Fire got their name. It’s not though. Apparently the band name comes from some crappy Electric Light Orchestra song. Yuck. If Matt Pike had any decency, he’d go back in time, read this book and then name his band High on Fire for the right reason.

While I was reading The Nightrunners, I started to wonder if there was a film version. It really seems like it should be a movie. This hasn’t happened yet, but Lansdale, along with his friend Neal Barrett, Jr., have written the screenplay. I read this too. It’s pretty much the same as the novel, but here the God of the Razor seems far less likely to be a hallucination.

In 2007, Subterranean Press put out The God of the Razor, an anthology of Lansdale’s Nightrunners/God of the Razor stories. It includes:

The Nightrunners
God of the Razor
Not from Detroit
King of Shadows
The Shaggy House
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
Janet Finds the Razor 

This book is long sold out and hard to find, but I was able to track down its contents in other sources. The most comprehensive of these was Crossroad Press’s 2012 release, Written with a Razor. This book includes the screenplay version of The Nightrunners, God of the Razor, King of Shadows and Janet Finds the Razor. I found the remaining tales online and in different anthologies.

The Lord of the Razor, The Shaggy House and Not from Detroit are short stories that are basically rewritten and extended scenes from The Nightrunners. Neither The Shaggy House nor Not from Detroit actually feature the God of the Razor in any form. (It is for this reason that I didn’t bother reading Lansdale’s Something Lumber This Way Comes, a rewriting of The Shaggy House for children. I’ll do so with my kids when they’re a little older.) These stories were fine. You’ll have to forgive me for not being super excited. I read these tales, the novel they were taken from and its screenplay in the course of a week. Maybe space them out if you’re going to do the same.

King of Shadows is the highlight of both collections. It’s an original story (original here meaning “not based on a scene from The Nightrunners“), and very nasty. A family adopts a kid whose da murdered his ma and then killed himself. Guess what happens next.

Janet Finds the Razor is short. It was written specifically for The God of the Razor collection. I have no complaints about it.

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is an excellent story, but apart from being super gory, I don’t know what it has to do with the God of the Razor. Maybe it was included because it’s one of Lansdale’s better known tales. It’s not included in Written with a Razor.

In 1996 Lansdale wrote a story called ‘Subway Jack’ for a Batman Anthology. This story is not included in either of the above collections, but in the introduction to King of Shadows in Written with a Razor, Lansdale notes that his other favourite God of the Razor story couldn’t be published there. I assume Subway Jack has to be the one he’s talking about. There was probably some licensing issue because of the Batman characters. I really liked this story. It quotes background sources on the God that aren’t available elsewhere. Also, this story is a crossover between ultra violent horror fiction and Batman. Hell yeah.

While the Batman/Lord of the Razor crossover takes the form of a short story, Lansdale actually wrote a 4 four part comic series about the Lord of the Razor called Blood and Shadows. I don’t read many comics, and I was delighted to give these a go. This is a weird series that starts off Detective Noir, turns into a Western and ends as hellish post-apocalyptic fantasy. It gives a bit of background about where the God of the Razor comes from. It seems as though the metal in his razor originally came to Earth on a meteor and was forged into a blade by an Apache Tribe. This seems to contradict the information in Followers of the Razor (a fictional book mentioned in Subway Jack and Blood and Shadows) in which author David Webb claims, “Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, was originally from the same dimension as the God of the Razor, and that it belonged to him. He [Webb] claims that this is the sword that got broken and made into a razor.” How could the razor come from the Apache and the Britons? The first known mention of King Arthur is from 829, a good while before there was any trade between America and Europe. Is there more than one magical blade that can call up the God of the Razor? But look at his name! He’s not Razor God or God of Razors; he’s God of THE Razor. What the Hell is going on? Probably something to do with his interdimensionality.

The only God of the Razor stuff that I didn’t read was Joe R. Lansdale’s Lords of the Razor. This is an anthology of God of the Razor stories by other authors. I’d like to read it, but it’s out of print and super expensive. It doesn’t contain any Lansdale stuff that isn’t available elsewhere though, so I’m not too upset that I couldn’t get my hands on it. Still though, if anyone has a copy that they want me to have, I’ll gladly review it here.

The Nightrunners turned into more of a commitment than I was expecting, but the novel, the screenplay, the stories and the comic series were all highly enjoyable. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Lansdale’s books in the future.

The God of the Razor drawn by Mark A. Nelson

Dystopia – Richard Christian Matheson

The first time I came across Richard Christian Matheson, I liked him. The second time, I did not like him. The guy is known as one of the splatterpunks, and last year, I did a megapost on his dad’s books, so I thought I’d better take a closer look at his output. RCM has written novels, but he is most famous for his stripped down short stories. His most popular collection of stories is 1987’s Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks. I was originally going to read this one, but I opted instead for a collection called Dystopia from 2000. This collection contains all the author’s fiction that had been published by that point, including everything in Scars.

Dystopia – Richard Christian Matheson
Crossroads Press – 2011 (Originally published 2000)


Honestly, choosing the longer collection was probably a mistake on my part. Matheson is a talented writer, and some of the stories in Dystopia are great. The problem is that some (maybe even lots) of the stories are not really great. The most notable factor of Matheson’s writing is his precision; many of these tales are told in less than 3 pages. This is really cool when it works, but there’s many, many stories (60ish) in this collection, and they’re not all masterpieces. I usually read a few in each sitting, and the brevity and quantity made even the good ones a bit forgettable. I appreciate complete collections of author’s works, but I would have been far better off with a shorter “Best of” collection of this author’s works. Dystopia is more than 400 pages. I reckon a slim 180 page greatest hits would have been far more impressive.

It has been pointed out to me that I often avoid discussing specific stories when reviewing short fiction anthologies. The nature of the stories in this collection makes it even less appealing to get into specifics. Fortunately, as is so often the case, Will Errickson over at Too Much Horror Fiction blog reviewed Matheson’s short fiction more articulately and in more detail than I ever could. Check out his review here.

Kinda crappy post this week… sorry. Life has been pretty hectic recently, and I haven’t had much time to blog. I had to go through my draft posts folder to find something to polish up for my Sunday deadline. I wrote the above a long, long time ago. I was actually planning to read RCM’s novel, Created By and including my thoughts on that in this post, but after putting it off for half a year, I have decided not to bother. Life is too short to read everything. I gave this dude a chance, and while he was clearly a capable writer, I currently have no desire to read more of his stuff. If anyone has read this novel and is convinced I would enjoy it, let me know and I’ll reconsider.

I have a few big posts coming up in the next few weeks, so check back soon.

Genital Grinder – Ryan Harding

Genital Grinder – Ryan Harding
Deadite Press – 2012


A few weeks ago I wrote a pretty scathing review of Edward Lee’s Bullet Through your Face. My main complaint was that the book seemed to exist solely for the sake of being gross and offensive. I read an ebook version, and when I was writing the review, I had to google for a jpg of the book’s cover. In doing so I clicked onto the publisher’s website and saw the cover of another book called Genital Grinder. I was literally in the process of complaining about a text that was too vulgarly disgusting, but a book named after an early Carcass song is not something I could pass up on. I needed to get my genitals ground immediately.

Imagine my concern when I started reading and realised that the introduction of the book was written by none other than Edward Lee. (I do actually like Lee; I just think that the last book I read by him sucked.) In this introduction Lee warns the reader that the stories in this book are real sicko stuff.

He wasn’t exaggerating. This book is vile. He first story is about a man getting stuck under a very fat woman who has just died of a heart attack. You can guess the first thing that happens, but what follows is both hideous and unexpected. Another of the tales is about two truly scummy dudes who find and violate the corpse of a car crash victim. These two gents, Von and Greg, show up in a couple of other stories, both of which involve kidnapping, rape and sadistic murders. The other stories, aside from the last one, are more of the same – lots of kidnapping, rape and brutal violence.

While this is pretty rough going, these tales are actually stories. Harding, while capable of being both repulsive and very funny, avoids the boring vulgarity that ruined the Lee book that led me to Genital Grinder. There’s suspense and plot twists and more high brow literature stuff in here. The last tale in the collection is an artier piece than the others, more in the vein of Koja or maybe even Ligotti. It wasn’t bad, but I thought it felt a bit out of place.

Many of the characters in this book are violent, sadistic, mysogynistic rapists. If you’re going to read a book called Genital Grinder, you probably shouldn’t expect it to be inoffensive, but I have to say, this was really, really rapey. Of all the acts of barbarity that occur in this novel, I don’t think any are performed by a female character. One of the stories features several woman being kidnapped, raped and surgically altered. One has her anus removed, and one has several vaginas implanted on her torso. Some parts of the book are so visceral that it feels like it’s encroaching on that fine line between violent horror and violent pornography. That being said, I understand that this is fiction, and I’m not accusing the author of anything. I just want to warn my readers before they check this out. This book is really fucked up.

This was a horrible, horrible book, but it was decently written, and some parts were quite funny. I would definitely consider reading more by Ryan Harding in the future.

Skinzz – Wrath James White

Skinzz – Wrath James White
Deadite Press – 2015 (First published 2012)

A splatterpunk novel about violence against racist skinheads? As soon as I found out that this book existed, it bypassed all of the others on my reading list. I read it over a single afternoon. Honestly though, I wanted to like it far more than I actually liked it.

This is the story of a gang of punks and a rival gang of skinheads. The skins beat up some punks and then the punks beat up some skins and so on. The most brutal acts of violence are performed by the racists, and I didn’t feel like they ever got their comeuppance. This was a bit disappointing, but it’s probably realistic.

A few years ago I did a bunch of posts about horror novels centered on rock’n’rollers. A problem I noticed with a few of those books was the authors’ obvious ignorance of the musical genres they were writing about. Skinzz was a little different. This novel is horrifically violent, but there’s no supernatural element involved. This is a book about a rivalry that did and does exist. Realism is more important here, and I was glad to see Wrath James White reference some fairly appropriate bands.

The skinheads listen to Skrewdriver (an overtly racist band) and Agnostic front. I know Agnostic Front had that one dodgy song, but I really don’t think they were ever bona fide racists. That being said, there have definitely been a bunch of racist skinheads who have listened to that band. One of the racist skinheads in this book talks about wanting to go to a Suicidal Tendencies show. I thought this might have been an error when I read it first, but then I realised it was probably intended to make him sound dumb.

This was Suicidal Tendencies line-up at the time this book is set. Not ideal for racists.

The support band at the Suicidal Tendencies concert is called Terrorist Threat, and they apparently have a song called “Guilty of Being white”. “Guilty of Being White” is a real song by a band called Minor Threat, and while its lyrics are painful to read in 2020, I reckon it’s safe to say that Minor Threat probably weren’t hateful racists. I don’t know why Wrath James White chose to change their name for this book when he left the others unaltered.

While the skinheads listen to mostly non-racist hardcore, the punks just listen to Ministry. Ministry certainly aren’t the first band that jump to mind when I think 1988 punk rock, but in 1988 they were still really cool.

Honestly, I wasn’t hugely impressed with this book. It was very straightforward. The punks are good, and the skins are bad. I mean, racist skinheads are objectively bad, but lets be realistic, so are most punks. Mack, the main character, is a bit too likeable. He’s smart, tall, rebellious, strong, sexy, caring, romantic and cool. Have you ever met a punk? They’re rarely any of those things. Most of the punks I know are ugly, disgruntled dwarves. One of the punks in this book is called “Demon” too. Yuck.

I was hoping that the punks were going to kidnap and torture some of the skins, but that never happened. There’s a violent showdown at the end of the book, but it fell short of what I was looking forward too. Between the simplistic plot and characters and the lack of extreme brutality, this book kinda sucked. I genuinely wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t very good. It felt like it needed a chapter at the end where the protagonist hunts down the really bad skin and brutalises him in an unspeakable manner.

I don’t know much about Wrath James White other than that he used to be a fighter, but that fact along with his kindness to his protagonist suggests to me that this novel might be slightly autobiographical. I had heard good things about him before, so maybe his other books are better. This one wasn’t really awful, but I can’t say I liked it a whole bunch. Maybe I’ll give Wrath James White another go some day.

Last complaint: the author and the publisher refer to this book as Skinzz, but isn’t that the Nazi SS rune on the cover? Shouldn’t it be SkinSS?

Bullet Through Your Face – Edward Lee

Bullet Through Your Face – Edward Lee
Deadite Press – 2010


I rarely give up on a book, and when I do, it’s usually a piece of garbage about new age occultism. I normally struggle through fiction even if it’s awful, but I could not bring myself to finish this one.

Bullet Through Your Face is a collection of three “short novels” by Edward Lee. I’ve read and enjoyed books by Edward Lee before, and I was well aware of his reputation, but this was a disappointing pile of crap.

Ever Nat, the first story in here an extremely unpleasant tale of a man being kidnapped and brutally raped over and over (ever nat) by a pair of hillbillys. Both of the other books I’d read by Lee featured a pair of rapist hillbillys, and I can’t say I was particularly shocked by any of the specific acts of horrendous sexual violence. The problem here is that there’s absolutely nothing else to this story. The other stuff I’d read by Lee had plenty of rape, but it also had aliens, killer worms and a cannibal mutant. This story is 100% rape. Call me a snowflake or a prude, but I didn’t enjoy this.

The next story, The Salt Diviner was about a Babylonian fortune teller showing up in modern times and making friends with a gambler. Oh, and the mystic gets his powers from performing acts of sex or violence. This gets ludicrous pretty quickly, but it was weird and fun. If the whole book had been stuff like this, I would have been happy. This one was very short for a “novel”.

The last, and by far the longest, story in this collection is called The Refrigerator full of Sperm. Now anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any amount of time will know that I have a pretty high threshold for vulgarity and potty humour, but this story was too puerile for me. The Refrigerator full of Sperm was originally published in a collection called Splatterspunk: The Micah Hays Stories, and all of the stories in that collection are about a particularly randy police officer. That in itself was enough to deter me (I hate reading stuff out of sequence.), but the writing here is utterly horrible too. I don’t just mean the events it’s describing either. The story itself, not just the dialogue, is written in a southern drawl. Ugh. No thanks. One of the characters keeps interrupting the narrative with his lurid tales, most of which seemed to involve “peckersnot” and “cornholing”. I enjoy vulgarity very much, but this book taught me that it can get pretty tiresome when it’s dialled up to 11. I got maybe 20 pages into this before giving up. I was actually reading an ebook version, and my kindle gives an estimate of how much time it’s going to take to finish the book. I have a full time job and a family to take care of, so reading is a luxury for me. I could not justify spending two hours of my precious free time reading this trash.

I was pretty disappointed with this collection. It was nowhere near as good as the other stuff I’ve read by Lee. If you haven’t read any of his books, this would be an awful place to start. Deadite Press released this book along with another collection of short stories by Lee called Brain Cheese Buffet in 2010. (Both were titled by Carlton Mellick III.) That one contains shorter stories, so it’s probably the better of the two. I was originally planning on reviewing both books together, but after this crap I reckon I’ll take a break from Lee for a while.

Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart

hellbound heart clive barker

The Hellbound Heart – Clive Barker
Crossroads Press – 2013 (First published 1986)

After years of eyeing the video box in my local videoshop after mass on Sundays, I finally saw Hellraiser on the Halloween night after I turned 19. After that much anticipation, I was inevitably a bit underwhelmed. I rewatched it in June this year, and I enjoyed it far more second time around. I had just finished Clive Barker’s Cabal, and I guess I was in a Barkery kinda mood. A few weeks later, over the course of on afternoon, I listened to an audiobook version The Hellbound Heart, the novella that Hellraiser is based on. (Crossroads Press produced two audiobook versions of The Hellbound Heart. One is narrated by Barker himself, but that one is abridged, so I went with the other one.)

In case you don’t know, this is the story of a man who summons a crew of S&M loving demons to his house. (They’re into the bad kind of S&M… the really bad kind.) Things don’t work out very well for this chap and his family. This is a horror classic, and I liked the book quite a lot. I read it so soon after seeing the movie that I was able to pick out their differences.

The main change is that Kirsty is Rory’s friend in the book whereas she is his daughter in the movie. I think the story works better when she’s his daughter. It’s harder to imagine the characters’ motivations when these two are just friends.

In the book, the Cenobytes are less threatening or maybe just a little more distracted than in the movie. When they first appear, they try to make sure Frank knows what he’s getting himself into before they work their magic on him. This is a bit confusing as when Kirsty summons them later on, they tell her that they can’t leave without taking the person who summoned them. Why does Frank get a chance to back out but Kirsty doesn’t?

In the book, the female cenobyte seems to be more of a group leader than Pinhead. She’s the engineer in the book, but that title goes to the weird wall monster in the film. Oh, and there’s no pet store or tramp in the book. Aside from these few differences, the book and movie are pretty much the same. If, like me, you enjoyed the movie, give the book a go. It’s fun to do both.

This is the third of Barker’s works to appear on this site in 2020. The Hellbound Heart (1986) came out right after the Books of Blood (1984 – 1985), and aside from it being slightly longer, it wouldn’t feel out of place with the tales in those collections. (I saw recently that there’s a Books of Blood TV series coming out in October.) I definitely liked The Hellbound Heart better than Cabal (1988) as it’s more horror than fantasy. I reckon I’ll read Barker’s The Damnation Game (1985) next.

Gods of the Dark Web – Lucas Mangum

gods of the dark web lucas mangumGods of the Dark Web – Lucas Mangum
Deadite Press – 2018

For as long as I can remember, there has been horror stories about the dark web. It’s the perfect starting point for creepypastas, and I reckon that youtube clips listing its 10 creepiest videos and the likes are where most people first hear of it. The majority of internet users, including me, don’t really understand what the dark web is or how it works, but that’s not super important here. You won’t need a degree in computer programming to understand this book. Lucas Mangum’s Gods of the Dark Web is a novel about the dangers of messing with the deepest, darkest parts of the internet.

Two teenagers start mucking about on the dark web and then very bad things happen to them. While this premise could work as a realistic thriller, the trouble in this novel seems to be caused by the union of modern technology with some eldritch ancient evil. This supernatural stuff is never fully explained, but this was a strength of the book rather than a weakness. It’s one of those ‘scarier when you don’t understand’ situations.

There are some super violent scenes in here, and while this type of novel would be a bit underwhelming if there wasn’t some brutality, there is one scene in which a baby is murdered that was tough to bear. I read this book in the same room as my 3 week old daughter, and this perhaps made it more unpleasant than it would seem to other readers, but I reckon this scene will leave most people squirming. The genre and subject matter of the book call for taboos to be broken, but, as I mentioned in my review of the Splatterpunks Anthologies, I feel like killing babies is low hanging fruit. It’s close to the bottom of the barrel of shock tactics. Then again, in the context of the story, it doesn’t seem overly ridiculous. The antagonists of this novel need to be the lowest of the low for the story to work. I won’t say that this scene or any other scene in this novel is “too much”, but I would recommend that you not read this book if you don’t feel comfortable reading about horrendous, sadistic brutality.

Gods of the Dark Web is a short novel, and I don’t want to ruin the story, so I’ll say no more about the plot. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s dark, gritty and surprisingly enjoyable. Check it out if you like dark, nasty horror.

This book is only a couple of years old, and Lucas Mangum is still an active writer. He has a patreon page where he has recently published a bunch of Gods of the Darkweb extension stories featuring characters from the novel. There’s something very apt about continuing this saga in this manner. You feel like your computer might turn against you while you’re reading. Mangum is not demanding payment for what he posts on his patreon page, and I salute him for his DIY approach. I suggest you give his writing a go.