Top critical review
2.0 out of 5 stars... since it won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award for best novel. Sadly
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 8, 2018
I don’t read much from the Horror category but decided to try this since it won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award for best novel. Sadly, I won't have too many good things to say about this one. To cut right to the chase, it wasn’t what I’d hoped for – I wound up reading through it pretty quickly and superficially and found that it just didn’t have much of an impact.
When I do decide to pick up something in this genre, I want it to really mess with me and creep me out. I want it to stay with me for a good long while – the way “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty or “Carrion Comfort” by Dan Simmons did. Books like those are unforgettable and they don’t fade over time. They scar – not just scare but scar – you just a little bit and you wind up thinking back to them at all the wrong times – sending a nasty little chill up and down your spine.
Really good horror movies have the same effect. I made the mistake of watching “Night Of The Living Dead” on television and then going to see “Dawn Of The Dead” in the theater when I was younger. Those are two decisions that I wish I could get a mulligan on. To this day – I DO NOT like zombies and I will have nothing to do with them – either in print or on the screen. I have not watched a single episode of “The Walking Dead” and I NEVER will. For the longest time, I found myself having those occasional dreams where I was being chased by zombies. I’m smart enough to know that the zombies are stand-ins for things I’m stressing about in real life but those two movies had enough of an impact that zombies became my unconscious symbol for seriously threatening elements in real life. The only literary and cinematic exception to this rule that I’ve ever made was “World War Z” – both the book and the movie – and while I’m glad I did – I enjoyed both – I don’t think the decision helped to mitigate my feelings about the whole zombie thing.
That’s what I was hoping for when I downloaded the book and started in. About a third of the way through, I realized that the only horrific aspect of the story was a creeping sense of boredom. Anyone who reads the blurb here on Amazon is going to find the book all too predictable. Start with a biblical teaser, lock a group of disparate and diverse individuals into a room, throw in some religious animosities, sexual transgressions and political tensions and a nasty outcome comes as no surprise to anyone. You hardly need the demonic presence to drive the story. The Author throws in some mildly engaging questions along the way related to whether the characters’ early transgressions are driven by possession or arise from their own flaws and life pain but – for me – that was about as interesting as it ever got.
Short to long – if anyone ever offers me the opportunity to hike Mount Ararat – my decision not to do so is going to have absolutely nothing to do with this book.