I had to think long and hard about writing a review for The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) by Wade H. Garret. If I was writing this review uncensored, I would state that it has some very good parts and some very bad parts and while I wouldn’t go into heavy detail I would tell my readers what they have to be aware of if they’re interested in reading this book. The author has a one page disclaimer about the book, and for a good reason. The thing is, I almost didn’t want to take a chance on writing an uncensored review because the author’s disclaimer essentially says “This book is graphic, gory, upsetting, politically incorrect, and offensive. Don’t read if you’re sensitive.” Eh, I’ve read worse. The sticking point for me was that also in his disclaimer, he talked about receiving negative reviews for the book and responding to the reviewer. Granted, the response was probably the most well-handled “Well, I like my writing so whatever” I’ve read in some time. Still, reviews are not meant to stroke an author’s ego or keep the book high in the ratings (for example, on Amazon where I rented this book as a Kindle Unlimited, keeping the average rating of the book between four and five stars). When I review a book, I may very well sing its praises. More often than not, I’m critical of the book. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book, but it means that I’ve read the book, I’ve thought about the book, and finally I want to share both the good and the bad of the book for other readers. It’s intimidating to read in an author’s disclaimer that they know what content is in their book and if it upsets you, well, you knew what you were getting into. In the end, I am going to review The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) because I have thoughts on the book and I want to share them with my readers.
The Angel of Vengeance takes place in a basement torture chamber, predominantly as a long, extremely graphic conversation between the anti-hero character Seth Coker and a man named “Richard”, “Dicky” for short. Here’s what you need to know: The conversation is part conversation between Seth and Dicky and part of a way to flash back to all of Seth’s handiwork, some that is lying around the basement in various locations. The conversation is broken down into stories that span two to three chapters followed by Seth showing Dicky what the bodies of his corpses look like in the present day. Seth is one of those characters that you will be conflicted on because he is a vigilante, he is not a good guy, his sanity is probably shot, and yes, he loves torturing people…but he has a sense of justice about it. Whenever Dicky asks Seth why he enjoys torture, Seth says that he’s doing it to bring justice to the victims of his victims. The way Seth views the criminal justice system is that it’s broken and doesn’t punish the people that need punishment the most, so he comes in to set things “right”.
I did have a segment of chapters that I completely understood Seth’s sense of justice, twisted as it was. “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” “Human Octopus” and “The Gruesome Torture Device” tell the story of three men that, among other things, tortured and killed fifty-three shelter animals for no reason. Oddly, the paragraph in “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” specifically about the shelter animal torture doesn’t go into the same graphic detail that goes into Seth’s methods of vengeance. It’s still extremely stomach-turning if you’re an animal lover and you don’t like reading about animal torture. The thing is that if animal torture makes your blood boil, you probably feel like anyone who tortures animals deserves to be tortured the same way themselves so they know how it feels. Maybe you even support Seth in these three chapters. In real life when I have a clear head I would never say “Torture the animal-torturers worse than what they did, but in reading these chapters I felt that primal sense of “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
People who have a cause that’s near and dear to their heart will probably have a similar reaction to myself. If you are anti-elder neglect or you’re anti-violence against women or you’re anti-child abuse, you might also find some segments where you support Seth’s brand of justice.
Although I did have three pet chapters (no pun intended) that I got into, I found myself wondering where Seth believed it was his duty to humanity to right every criminal justice system wrong through torture. Of course if we believe Seth’s account, it’s that victims of violent acts shouldn’t suffer without getting some kind of peace and since he’s capable of it, that’s his life’s work. That said, Seth is extreme in handing out justice and sometimes he has no connections to the people’s he’s helping/”helping”. There’s a plot twist in the final few chapters where readers learn why “Dicky” is Seth’s latest victim and there is minor justification. I won’t spoil it because it’s worth reading for. More often than not, it feels a lot like Seth tortures people for the fun of it and uses “I’m correcting injustices” as a way to shield his twisted hobby. It’s hard for me to get into Seth’s mindset. I don’t know that anyone can.
After reading The Angel of Vengeance, I had some final thoughts for potential readers. First, you absolutely need to take the author’s disclaimer seriously. This is not extreme horror like you’d get from Edward Lee (which I’ve read a few works from and will tell you that the version of extreme horror by Mr. Lee is more ridiculous than thought-provoking and hard to handle). There is nothing supernatural about this book. There is not a sense of “This part is gory but you’re supposed to find it laughable” with this book. There is some very dark humor in this book and if you read the reviews on Amazon, people have appreciated it. The humor is more about the weird exchanges between Seth and Dicky than, say, slapstick. Definitely keep in mind that this is not light reading. Second, if you are a book reviewer, don’t be afraid to write an honest review. This book challenged me, not because it had large vocabulary words but because enjoying it or appreciating it or being completely turned off was a moral dilemma. In the end I had to write a review of it and express why I was so challenged by it.
I’m going to kick off 2015 right with a weird aquatic horror novel about lampreys. For those of you who don’t know what a lamprey is, consider that a benefit for reading Lampreys by author Alan Spencer. If you do know what a lamprey is, you are going to find the entire premise of this novella ridiculous. Actually, I don’t know a thing about lampreys either and I still found the premise far-fetched. I have to warn you of that right now. In spite of the weirdness, you should give this novella a chance because it’s so weird but in the end it works as fun reading material.
Lampreys begins with a scene in a secret research lab where a research assistant is completing her work for the day and is about to leave the laboratory when her boss’s voice comes over the loudspeaker saying “Mama” is hungry and she is sucked through a hole in the ceiling by something large. She is chewed up and the scene fades to black. We are then introduced to the main character Conrad Garfield, an English professor who is mourning a break-up and is sent on a volunteer trip to Africa because, as his brothers say, he’s too big of a wimp. Conrad is extremely bookish, the stereotype of an English professor. This is somewhat significant to the rest of the novella, so keep that in mind. When Conrad, his brothers, and the rest of the volunteer team are taken to Africa, they are warned it’s a hot zone. That’s when things get good.
Once we reach this point, we find out what’s going on in the secret lab. The owner/lead scientist Dr. Sutherland is certifiably insane. He allowed normal-sized lampreys to infect his body so he could be “in tune” with their desires. The lampreys are flesh-eating machines, so Dr. Sutherland has to order human organs and flesh for them to munch on. In addition, he sicced his “super lampreys” (larger-than-human sized creatures, including “Mama”) on his research assistants to keep them happy while he ordered massive shipments of body parts. When Dr. Sutherland wasn’t feeding his lampreys, he was combining lampreys with humans to make weird living weapons. I won’t spoil the gory goodness, but let’s just say that the human/lamprey hybrids were much more lamprey than human. If you like body horror, you’ll love reading these scenes.
I also won’t spoil the ending, but the lamprey experience changed Conrad to a point, in a good way. Our bookish hero remained interested in literature and teaching, but the way he approached the subject matter became more personal. Also, the sad sack “I can’t move on from my unfaithful girlfriend!” person Conrad had been was gone. If nothing else, the lampreys made him realize he had control of his life and nobody had the right to decide the direction it took. Conrad is not always a likable character, but I promise he becomes more three dimensional throughout the novella.
I did have problems with believability of the novel. “Super lampreys” are out there, but as a fan of fantasy novels I can definitely get the need for unusual, inventive creatures. More than the lampreys, I didn’t buy mad scientist Dr. Sutherland’s lamprey/human hybrids. Humans can’t survive having living creatures shoved into and/or stitched to their bodies. There is no way, even in a clearly fantay/horror novel, that this technique is plausible. The only way author Alan Spencer could make the lamprey/human hybrid believable in context of the novella is to increase the novella to a full-length novel with more explanation. In order to enjoy this novella, you can’t question the logic at all.
Although I’m highly critical of the novella, I would still recommend reading Lampreys. It’s the horror equivalent of a beach read. Sometimes you want to be grossed out and entertained, no logic required. Lampreys doesn’t make sense, but it is a fun read.