If you are into cults—and you are, because what red-blooded human isn’t fascinated or at least intrigued by them—this is the cult novel you’ve been looking for.
Mason Hues is anonymous. He lives in a bare studio apartment, his mattress on the floor.
But before he was Mason, he was John Doe, and before that, he was Thirty-Seven, a member of the Survivors, a cult hidden in the mountains of Colorado where he willingly took chemotherapy drugs to make himself sick because sickness bears honesty and honesty bears change, and the change that the Survivors enacted came to shock the nation.
But now he’s Mason. And even though he’s had therapy, the teachings from his time with the Survivors are still coursing through his mind, through his veins. Maybe there’s something to the Truth he was learning. Maybe he can start over, find it again.
This book—what a wake-up call! It is such a gift when you read something that really sings, that is so unique and vivid that you can’t put it down but you want to savor every second. Not many books fit that bill.
This is not a traditional horror novel, but Stenson is not a traditional writer. He does his own thing and he innovates in a way that is not only new, but courageous—and he is not afraid to get dark. His writing digs in deep to your bone—you can feel the needle biting into your skin, the poison filling your veins. The characters aren’t stagnant; they live and breathe on the page.
Though the book is dark—and stays dark—there is a musicality to the language, a lulling repetition to the style that obviously has a lot of thought put into it. It is really a beautifully crafted book hiding in the skin of something deadly. It creates an atmosphere where every time you open the pages you are in Mason’s head, in his thoughts, seeing his vision of honesty and sickness—and almost believing in it.
Similar to his previous book Fiend, this book paints a raw, honest, and chilling picture of addiction and its consequences, though while Fiend focused on a group of junkies who survived the zombie apocalypse because of their drug habit, the addiction in Thirty-Seven (while still drug-fueled) is more insidious—an addiction of the mind.
Stenson has a knack for creating characters who are on the verge: they make bad decisions, they don’t appear to be good or likable people, but somehow when you are in their mind, you can see how they got to where they are and their choices make sense. I found myself sympathetic to Mason throughout the book, though I wasn’t sure if I should be.
I definitely haven’t read anything like this in the genre, or even at all. This book may be a bit unclassifiable—it slants toward the horror aesthetic, but why put it in a box? I want to put this one in everyone’s hands—start a little Survivors cult of my own, if you’d like to think of it that way.
I recommend this. Read it. Reading bears knowledge and knowledge bears power. Therefore reading bears power. You can’t go wrong, really.
Check out the publisher, Dzanc Books
Richard Fitcher is just your average, overweight nerd who enjoys a good round of D&D with his witch hunting clan. Only he thinks its all just a game.
He goes to Bridgeport to meet a reporter and her cameraman for a short spooky segment to coincide with their fall festival, and when everything starts to eerily go right, he is forced to start believing in the supernatural—and fast—because he’s going to have to use everything he knows to keep them all alive and hunt down the witch who’s been inhabiting their town.
If you dig some comedy mixed in with your horror, this is the book for you. Foster keeps the banter alive, constantly slinging witticisms about, even as the gore flies.
For me, it was a bit much, and wore thin at the edges over the course of the book—I didn’t find the characters especially realistic and the dialogue was probably the weakest point of the novel.
The narrative switches back and forth between the present, where Richard is being held in a police station and the past, where he is recounting the crazy night that led him there. Not everything is as it seems and I did appreciate that I had no idea where the story was going to go next.
I read this book in one sitting—it lends itself well to binge-reading—and although it was entertaining, it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. I think the constant humor disconnected me from the characters, so I didn’t really ever get them as people (rather than characters).
I have heard that Foster's previous release, The Wicked Ones, is a darker, more straight horror type of book, so that one is probably more up my alley than this one—sounds like Foster has a little something for everyone!
My thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book to read and review as a part of the Night Worms Collective!
They meet and they have an instant connection. They learn from each other, respect each other, complement each other. Each is a perfect friend to the other in a world where very little has gone right and very little has given them cause to be happy.
This is a love story, but it isn't romantic love. Rather, it is a story about the deep and fierce love of friendship—about the family we find in other people and how beyond all measures of human cruelty and across time and distance, that friendship can still ignite a fire that can create change.
Savitha and Poornima meet each other when Poornima's father hires Savitha to weave and help make saris, which are in high demand. In each other they find joy and hope. On the eve of Poornima's wedding—which was extremely difficult to arrange for her father—tragedy befalls the girls and Savitha flees, leaving them both to their own fates—two pieces of one thread unraveling.
The girls each experience brutality, learning that their lives matter little to many around them. But they each keep an internal flame alive, that spark of hope and passion that their friendship ignited and Poornima leaves behind everything to find her friend.
This is not an easy book. It describes very harsh realities in detail like rape, domestic abuse, sex work, immigration issues, human trafficking, and other issues that people around the world—especially women—still face on a daily basis.
But reading about their struggles and how they react and overcome is a form of empowerment. These characters are not ones to take anything sitting down and they constantly move toward their goals.
What I love most about this book is that not only are the women the narrators, each taking a chapter in turn as the narrative progresses, what is central to the narrative is not dating, marriage, or the general search for or loss of men, but rather it is about their empowering friendship.
It seems to me that so often books about women or with women as the main characters are too often centered around men, sometimes so much so that the book ceases to be about the female character and is instead about how she is somehow not complete without some guy. Honestly, this is so boring to me and is the whole reason I avoid what is generally marketed as "women's fiction."
It is so refreshing to read a story that is so real and honest about the struggles of these women—so often they struggle silently with no one to help them except their own mental strength and perseverance. A book about women finding their way—their own way to what they want even though it is not an easy path, and where men are not the target.
Also I so enjoyed really becoming immersed in a culture that is very different from my own, and the author has a way of weaving in the details of that world in such a way that you can understand and see the surroundings even without knowing anything about living in the places in India that are described.
Thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me an advance copy of this book.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.