I may have given up on supernatural/demon horror novels completely if not for The Many (The End is Nigh). After hitting many dead ends in these horror sub-genres that I used to crave, I had the unpleasant thought that nobody was writing anything good and I needed to move on. When I move on from sub-genres, it’s not permanent but when I return I have decreased enthusiasm and patience. Thank you Joe Stone for writing an exciting supernatural/demon horror novel and giving me renewed hope!
The Many is an ensemble novel in which we are first introduced to four characters with separate but related stories until all four meet each other and share the same story. Usually I wouldn’t recommend this style of writing because I can’t keep track of what events happened to what character, but in The Many the four characters are distinctive enough to remember who and what is happening overall. The four characters are Tommy (a high school student with no luck in getting the girls), Jason (a man with close ties to his mother), Amy (a married woman in search of other men), and Nick (a police officer). A recommendation: Follow Amy’s story the closest because she starts and ends the book. These four characters witness different aspects of the demonic virus but the thing they share is that the entities get into their heads and taunt them about their secret sins as a way to (attempt to) possess them.
By now you’re probably curious about this demonic virus. It’s not fully explained in the novel, but that just means we’ll have something to look forward to in the sequel. From what I understand, it has something to do with Lou Parsons and his grudge against the Lenton, Massachussetts community’s priest. Lou Parsons either summons demons or is a demon himself and his goal is to take over the community and make it his. His method is to use powerful body-hacking, landscape-changing demons to take over “regular” people’s bodies while he works on influencing Tommy, Jason, Amy, and Nick to do his most important work (which involves killing the priest). By the end of this book, Lou Parson’s reach has extended from Lenton to all over Massachussetts.
I said it in multiple places of this review and I’ll say it again, reading The Many was such a relief. It has elements of other pre/post-apocalyptic novels such as the world being normal one day and spiraling out of control the next and that the cause of the apocalypse is supernatural, but hen it offers a twist. The creatures have zombie-like qualities such as feasting on human innards and flesh, but they’re not zombies and they have more of a sense of consciousness. This is much more unnerving than reading about mindless flesh-eaters. I like that by the end of the novel, I was excited for the next book because I have no idea what direction it’s going to take. Sometimes predictability is comforting, but I don’t read the horror genre to be comforted. I like that I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Since I’m excited and that hasn’t happened for a while, I feel safe in saying that if you are also a fan of supernatural/demon horror but you’re in a reading slump, you really should give The Many a chance. If you do, let me know what you think!
Have you ever counted the days before a book will be released and you’re so excited you feel personally offended that the publishing company doesn’t release it earlier? I had been waiting at least two months for Evil Little Things by Matt Shaw and yes, I felt like giving readers the synopsis of the already-written book but not pushing it out sooner was a personal insult. When I finally downloaded the Kindle e-book, I thought all the waiting would be worth it. Well, it depends on why Evil Little Things seemed appealing and if you felt it delivered. I…wasn’t impressed like I thought I would be.
Evil Little Things is a demonic possession novella, sort of. An unmarried couple and their two children move to an inexpensive house that doesn’t seem quite right. Crista, the mother, was creeped out from the first day of living in the house when she and her partner Matt had a conversation only she could remember and her two daughters Ava and Aria had conversations with invisible entities. As the novel progresses, Crista’s sanity is called into question. She tells Matt that her children look like eyeless ghosts, she hears loud noises when there should be silence, her children are in multiple places at once, and she grows teeth where she shouldn’t. He responds that it’s all in her head and she needs psychiatric help. Ultimately Crista can’t handle living with the demonic entity and checks out in a bloody way, leaving the house to the demon. In the epilogue, we learn that *SPOILERS* Matt is possessed by the demon so that he can drive Crista to suicide and then raise Ava and Aria as recruits in the demon leader’s army. *END SPOILERS*
The epilogue is actually solid. If Matt Shaw decided to write a series about the demon army, he would have me as a guaranteed reader. This is when it’s confirmed that even as Crista loses her sanity and becomes unreliable, there is one main demon and the possibilities of more demons. That confirmation solves a problem with the bulk of the story, which I will explain in the next paragraph. The only thing that would improve the epilogue is if it didn’t jump from the omniscient narrator to the demon talking in first person. It was jarring, to say the least. Even so, I do recommend pushing through the novella to reach this part.
The story leading up to the epilogue was not terrible, but I admit to being disappointed. Crista was meant to be a sympathetic character but she was much too short-tempered and vain to be likable or at least pitied. If people around her didn’t buy into whatever she believed at the moment (whether it was that she felt old or she had evidence that the house was haunted) she would get short with them and take out that frustration on innocent people around her. The worst thing about Crista was that even after she knew she had an evil entity attached to her and the house, she engaged with others who weren’t protected from the demon and passed it on to them as well. Her partner’s friends Gabe and Melissa didn’t need to be dragged into the possession (and the novella); Their only purpose was to add to the body count. When every character was terrible in different ways, there was nobody worth cheering for. Another problem, also related to Crista, was that the more she experienced the demon’s presence and activities the less credible she seemed. I honestly felt like she could’ve benefited from a therapy session, it not to be diagnosed then at least to sort out the supernatural problems from her personality problems. Until the epilogue confirmed that there was a horde of demons out for recruits, this could’ve been a psychological novella. I love literature that challenges reality vs. the mind’s power, but I wanted Evil Little Things to be strictly supernatural. I only read to the end because this was a book I had once been so excited about. Author Matt Shaw can still tell a good story and I will still recommend him when I come across good work, but Evil Little Things pre-epilogue is not one I recommend.