This debut horror novel has it all: beaches, booze, boats, spiders, sex, despicable people whose death you root for, visceral body horror, and even a pug.
It’s obvious that Sodergren has spent a long time steeped in the horror tradition, and as a longtime follower of his Instagram, @paperbacksandpugs, I can say that this is—without a doubt—definitely the case. He knows it all, from the most obscure reference to the pop culture stalwarts. His personal love of the horror genre comes across in the style and substance of this novel, and while it feels like it could be a vintage horror paperback from the 80s paying homage to the video nasties, it is a wholly original tale.
Here’s the setup: two sisters, one boyfriend, and a new guy they just met on holiday in Thailand. They party wildly all night and wind up on a boat headed for an island that seems deserted—but as any good horror hound knows, “seems” is just another way to say that this is where things are about to get crazy.
And crazy is only the start of it.
This is a story I found myself really lost in, the type of book that as you’re reading it, the background falls away and you don’t notice time passing or people trying to talk to you, or even if your house might be burning down.
I appreciated getting to see from the perspectives of a variety of the characters. They were an interesting (and sometimes nasty—in all senses of the word!) bunch and getting into their heads gave each one room to become a more rounded and believable character. It also made me unsure of who was going to make it to the end of the book and who was toast. The characters filled horror tropes without becoming total clichés—not the easiest thing to do.
Ana, the main character, is quite brilliant. I loved how she was an average girl, not super good-looking or skinny, definitely has some bad moments in her past, tends to be insecure, and uses sarcasm to keep people away. Watching her transformation throughout the book is quite great. It’s not like she turns into Lara Croft or anything, but I felt she realistically took on the horrific events around her, adapted how she could, and badassed her way through it. I’d like to think I’d do the same, given the chance.
And the monsters—I think you’re going to like them. The opening scene alone is nightmare-inducing, but what’s worse: not knowing what’s down the dark, black hole or having to confront it face to face and try to stay alive? You’ll have to read on to find out!
I definitely recommend this horror novel to fans looking for something a little different and unique and a lot of blood-spattering, gore-infested (but still character-driven) madness—especially if they have a fondness for vintage horror films and books. There is a lot to love here, and I know this isn’t the last we’ll see from Sodergren (or his pug).
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.