After four planes crash simultaneously in geographically disparate locations, three child survivors emerge unscathed from the wreckage (the presence of a fourth child is possible but neither confirmed nor denied). Instant media darlings the Three, as they come to be known, are viewed as miracles by some and as harbingers of greater doom yet to come by others. The Three is presented as fact; the novel cleverly written as if it were a manuscript of a nonfiction book investigating the crash, its aftermath, and the survivors and their families. As I’ve said in the past this is a format that horror fiction leans on heavily stemming as far back as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764 to the modern film equivalent of found-footage.
Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls is a novel that combines the approach-ability of the mainstream novel with the complexity of time travel creating something rather unique. Opening with a chilling prologue detailing the first confrontation between our protagonist and our antagonist the novel quickly segues into what feels like a straightforward chase scene during the Great Depression. It is during this opening scene in which Harper Curtis stumbles upon the house that will change his life, a house that allows him to open the door onto just about any time and a house the contains links to the titular Shining Girls. The novel bumps back and forth between time and perspective detailing the Harper’s escapades across time, the lives of his Shining Girls, and experiences of Kirby as she embarks upon a quest to find the man who tried to kill her.
I’m pretty sure I pulled this off a list at the HWA website (it’s down at the moment so I can’t check right now) The Blood Gospel is a supernatural tinged thriller from NYT bestelling author James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell (an up and coming author best known for her Hannah Vogel noir series). It should be warned that this book leans heavily on Biblical knowledge and some previous knowledge of Catholicism; particularly the belief in transubstantiation. The novel opens with a flashback to the siege of Masada (around 73 CE) delving straight into the novel’s more fantastic elements with a scene straight out of The Exorcist (though not nearly as terrifying). Fast forward several thousand years to present day when an earthquake in Masada reveals a strange tomb. The sudden appearance of the tomb brings together the novel’s three heroes the mysterious priest Father Rhun Korza, the smart archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger (she escaped from a radical Christian sect in her youth and holds tight to her skepticism about all things religious as a result), and the brave Sergeant Jordan Stone (who works in military forensics).
What unfolds of over the course of the novel is a historical mystery and globe-trotting adventure full of strange and horrific creatures. The Blood Gospel isn’t a heavy read by any means, this is a light, action packed thriller with a strong thread of the supernatural horror running throughout. I’d hesitate to call this a horror novel though as the novel’s primary focus isn’t fear but action. The Blood Gospel as about as much horror as The Underworld series of films is. By and large The Blood Gospel is a taught novel tuned to catapult you through the plot. The novel’s only major stumbling block involves a young man who survives the opening earthquake, though with some rather strange side effects. This plot thread isn’t wholly developed here and doesn’t really offer any major benefit to the novel. The Blood Gospel is the first in a series and I have no doubt we’ll get deeper into this part of the story but it just felt a little out of place here. While the characters aren’t wholly original and fall into specific archetypes (amusingly enough this is touched upon in the plot) the author’s still manage to infuse them with a sense of individuality that leads to at least the beginnings of emotional attachment. For fans of action and the supernatural The Blood Gospel is a must-read.
I’ve been pretty cagey about the supernatural elements of The Blood Gospel. The last bit below the jump might spoil that some so read on if you don’t really care.
Delirium Books, 2011
Back in October I was looking for some lesser known horror to read when I stumbled upon Michael McBride’s Predatory Instinct. The premise: scientists discover a heretofore unknown “proto-human ancestor” that is not-so-extinct. Said discovery is captured by a power-hungry head of a Blackwater like mercenary company but of course things go wrong and the creature escapes to the streets of Seattle where it is up to Elena Sturm of the Seattle PD and Grey Porter of the FBI to track the creature down. What ensues is a by-the-numbers creature novel that shows brief flairs of originality but never manages to rise above its cookie-cutter characters.