I have no idea how to describe this book. I think the best way to put my feelings about it into a more clear perspective for you is that it is absolutely not one of those books I recommend anyone reading when they already feel physically sick and please, for all that is good and holy, don’t read it in a crowded public space. This is extreme horror at its most effective (a point that I cheer) but I was hesitant on even reviewing it because I felt wrong sitting in Panera reading it on my Kindle app. This is the book that would solidify how horror novel/horror genre in general haters feel about all the offerings. It’s an excellent read for anyone who likes body horror/torture scenes and cracked barely human families. In addition, I cheered for April Kennedy as a strong female character when she used her sexuality and manipulation skills to buy herself time from an impending death by the family of torture-happy cannibals. On the other hand, some of these scenes were just…blah. I keep going back and forth between whether I would heartily recommend it for in-private reading or say “Oh my god, never again! Don’t subject yourself to this!”
Dead to Writes begins simply enough with a man named Marty McDougal completing an upload of his novel Tunnel of Doom to the e-book selling website Crashbooks. He has delusions of the book immediately becoming a best-seller and bringing in so much money for the family that they could move up in the world. Problem: Marty McDougal sucks as a writer. College student April Kennedy, a horror buff on the Crashbooks mailing list, thought Tunnel of Doom looked interesting enough based on the title and purchased it, but of course it ended up being a book fail. Herbert, a horror novel reviewer who took his job seriously using the principle that even the worst written book deserved a thorough review of the problems with it, submitted a review dealing primarily with the bad grammar of the book. About thirty minutes later when Herbert checked his review for comments, he received one that read “You’re dead. M. C. McDougal.” Herbert wrote it off as the author being disgruntled that not everyone loved his “genius” work. Meanwhile, Marty McDougal was seething in his rage at some of the personal insults used in other reviews of his novel and plotting…well, let’s just say this is the meat (no pun intended) of Dead to Writes.
I have two competing thoughts about this book (Dead to Writes, not the fictional Tunnel of Doom) and I don’t know how to reconcile them.
On one hand, Dead to Writes is delicious in a sick and twisted way. There are scenes of torture that blow my mind because they’re so graphic and so convincing. I like it when a writer gives me the sense that they know exactly what they’re writing about. I know, this is part of the “sick and twisted” aspects of the book, but go with me here. Tim Miller is so convincing in his gory descriptions that no matter how much I want to slam the cover shut on my Lenovo tablet and forget I ever read this, I need to keep reading. I’m hooked. Few horror novels have done this for me in recent months, so props to Miller. Also, I love that there’s no distinction between “good” and “evil” in Dead to Writes. Under formulaic horror novel conventions, the McDougal family would be your evil villains and April Kennedy would be your hero. Technically April Kennedy is still the hero because this is the first book in a series about her hunting down people like the McDougals. However, April isn’t sugar and spice the way you’d expect most heroes to be. She uses the fact that the McDougal men and their mother (!) like to sexually abuse their victims before killing them to her advantage. By appealing to the family’s twisted sense of appropriate behavior, she is able to knock them off one by one. There were moments when I felt uncomfortable by April, but overall I applaud her for being strong-willed in spite of being shaken by her own abuse at the hands of the McDougals. April Kennedy is a strong female character if I ever saw one, so cheers to Tim Miller for that.
On the other hand, I am thoroughly disgusted by Dead to Writes and I feel extremely dirty for reading it. The scenes of rape were hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t included for the sole purpose of shock value. The McDougal family needed that kind of development because otherwise they’d be a generic cannibalistic family. I just didn’t want to read about a certain bodily fluid on every page and eventually it seemed overkill. We knew after the rape of the first victim in the beginning of the novel (before any of the bad reviews of Tunnel of Doom came in and Marty vowed revenge on his critics) that the McDougals were cruel. Having at least two drawn-out scenes as punishment for the negative reviews that weren’t even written by April or Herbert following that was I think the reason I felt so uncomfortable with this book. I wouldn’t normally cry “Trigger warning!” over a book in the horror genre because you should know what you could encounter by getting into the genre, but I want you all to know that if you’re uncomfortable with rape, stay far away from this book.
In conclusion, there is no conclusion I can reach about Dead to Writes. I love it for certain reasons but then I don’t feel comfortable about having read it for other reasons yet I want to continue reading future books in the series but then I’m not sure I can stomach another book as explicit as Dead of Writes but…but…but…Author Tim Miller contributes so much to the self-published extreme horror subgenre. I love having a new voice to read. I rented a second novel by Tim Miller on my Kindle Unlimited app and I’m excited to dive into it because he seems like a solid author. The same details that made me cringe and made me feel uncomfortable are what makes him a stand-out. In the case that I don’t have a clear recommendation, I’ll leave this review here and allow you all to use your own judgment.
I am on a creature horror kick right now. Although the trend in self-published creature horror seems to be dinosaurs and robot entities (god knows why; they’re kind of blah), I particularly like aquatic horror. The idea that the majority of the ocean hasn’t even been explored and you don’t know what’s living in its deepest darkest depths is already the most terrifying concept I can think of. What happens when (fictional) people learn the answer to the mystery? Seaspawn is a speculative fiction horror novel in asking “What if these humanesque creatures overpopulated the ocean and needed to spread out to land?” I was totally hooked by the synopsis but in the end I am 50/50 on whether I liked how this book played with the idea.
Up front, I’m going to tell you that I hate the way Edward Parker wrote this book. In the first seven or so chapters, readers are introduced to various characters who are vacationing in St. Meads, a tourist beach community. The novel opens with a small team of lobster fishers on a boat called The Esmeralda who are slaughtered by a seaspawn they were unfortunate enough to catch. In the second chapter readers meet the Collins family, who are visiting St. Meads at exactly the wrong time. A few chapters later the focus is on Keith Evans, a local restaurant owner who had money problems way before the seaspawn and did not need yet another problem to compound his cursed life. There are other characters as well but I would have to reread the novel to explain their purpose. As a good reviewer I have a responsibility to provide factual, accurate information, but let’s be honest for a second. If characters aren’t appealing enough for me to remember, they’re just not important. The point is that there is no one character that you can follow initially and in the middle and end of the novel when everyone’s paths converge, it’s not particularly important who they are. Here’s the thing: I loathe this style of writing and it was a potential deal-breaker for me. If you are a reader that can follow multiple characters’ storylines and you get into that deal, maybe this won’t be a problem for you. I just have to warn you because it did not endear me to this book and if there was nothing else redeeming then I would’ve given up.
The redeeming factor is the seaspawn themselves. An old homeless man named “Mick” refers to them as mermaids, which they are definitely not. What they are is the fictional creation of author Edward Parker, and they’re pretty creative. They are humanesque in some ways. They have all the basic human body parts that allow them to feed, fight, and basically function on land as they would in the water. They are such a threat because they are semi-immortal; the only thing that can kill them is firebombs dropped on the St. Meads’ community. I would assume that the idea Parker is playing with is that of the “four elements”, water is more powerful than everything but fire. Anyway, when these seaspawn come out of the ocean for new land, they are dead-set on making it theirs. They aren’t scared of humans even though they’re not familiar with humans and being physically attacked by their human victims/prey doesn’t phase them at all. I like reading about creatures that are bloodthirsty and emotionless. Parker could’ve easily written a novel where some of the seaspawn become pets of the tourists and break from their animalistic instincts, but instead he writes them to be all about the food and generally unpleasant little things. I enjoyed reading about these creatures and I’m disappointed that they weren’t featured in a better-written novel.
There was one other thing I genuinely liked about this novel, but I’m cautious to explain what it is because it’s the “end” of the novel and it would be a huge spoiler. I’ll leave you with this: Consider that these creatures are called seaspawn. What does the word “spawn” suggest to you?
I’m going to avoid giving an official recommendation because I realize that the things I disliked about this novel are liked by other readers. There’s nothing horribly wrong with this novel from a storytelling perspective (as in, everything is justified and Parker leaves no loose ends) and there were no obvious grammar or spelling errors that I picked up on. I would just recommend that if you purchase this novel, be sure to read other reviews so that you know what to expect in advance. Finally, I want to add that I am not turned off from this author. Edward Parker has written other novels that sound interesting and I’d be willing to give them a chance. He has excellent concepts in his novels, so I’d like to give him a fair chance to impress me with other works.
Have you ever considered an anonymous secret-sharing application as horror reading? I know I wouldn’t have thought so but the app Whisper is scarier than any horror material I’ve read to date. To put it politely, I’m surprised 90% of the confessors aren’t in prison. Before leaving Whisper behind, I posted a few of my own confessions. It’s one thing to hear Tumblr and BuzzFeed users say that only “serial killers” use Whisper and quite another to experience it firsthand. Don’t get me wrong, my secrets were legitimate. I wouldn’t necessarily want to share them under my real name on an app that people used for hook-ups and worse but they were definitely real secrets. For the purpose of writing my review I’ll share a few not-so-personal secrets that I remember writing.
I love bloody, gory horror movies. I am a woman.
I had no intention of this being a turn-on. On the day I wrote this, I found a series of quotes about how teenage boys get their girlfriends to sleep with them by showing them a scary movie and freaking them out so bad they turn to their boyfriend for comfort. Screw that! I’m a huge fan of bloody, gory horror movies because they’re disgusting and stomach-turning. Of course, I don’t want gore just for the sake of gore. I will absolutely give low ratings to movies that are completely meant for shock value and nothing more. *Cough Human Centipede Two cough* However, I don’t shy away from it when it adds to the storyline. I do have squicks, but I’m a big girl. If I can’t handle it then I look away or put down my computer lid if I’m watching the movie that way. I sure don’t need to turn to someone else.
Within five minutes after posting this secret, I get at least three private messages from these teenage boys asking me where I live and when they should come pick me up? Really? Ugh!
I like to kiss my cats on the lips.
Surprisingly I got no weird comments for this one. All the comments followed the sentiment of “I love cats!” and “Same!” It’s weird that people are weird about every other topic except animals, and then they’re just a flurry of “Oh my god, so cute!”
I like reading about mass muderers, morbid as that sounds.
I was totally asking for the creepy comments with this one, but there’s also a story behind why I posted this secret. So I’d bought a few books on my Kindle that related to teenage mass murderers. What an interesting subject! I’m a Criminology student as well as an English student. If the college and the department were better funded and had more options for specialized classes based on interests, I would absolutely want to focus on juvenile delinquency! This is one aspect of it. I don’t know what sparked my interest in “evil” kids but it’s like the one type of non-fiction reading I love. Okay, here’s the problem: People think that if you read about it, that obviously means you want to be like the people you’re reading about. This is 100% false, but of course you can’t reason with them. People get weird about subjects such as mass murderers. I posted this secret because it’s an unpopular opinion and requires loads of justification.
Not all the comments were creepy. Some comments served as reference material for future reading. If you give me the name of someone I’ve never heard of, I totally want to know who they are and what they did. Some comments were in agreement. It turns out that otherwise normal, well-adjusted people are just as interested in the subject as I am.
Then you get the really weird comments. I got offers to meet people who were apparently planning their own mass murders. Some people thought it was perfectly normal to tell me “I’ve been dying to commit this particular crime! Read about me!” Ummmmm, no thanks. Oh, never mind the people who, once again, wanted to hook up with me. Ugh!
I do believe in a parallel universe and parallel Jessica. I bet she’s living in a ritzy apartment with a prestigious career and living a dream life.
This was actually my reply to someone who was questioning the existence of parallel universes and parallel selves. I didn’t officially give them my name because, as above, creepy people, but I did share this thought. This person sent me a very involved private message. It was actually quite philosophical, but a little weird to ask someone you never actually met. Essentially this person said I was the only respondent that sounded disconnected from myself by referring to my parallel self as “she” instead of “me”. To me, it really is “she”. Even if Parallel Jessica is technically me, she isn’t me. She’s nothing more than an alternative that never will be. Why should I identify with her? Of course, I’m not going to explain this to someone I don’t know. It is something I might blog about in a completely different blog but definitely not something I’d share on Whisper.
To be fair, I walked into that one by typing that spacy-sounding response.
I don’t know how to officially rate the Whisper app. It’s effectively creepy reading material because it’s real. You know how when you read a solid horror novel and it’s unsettling for maybe a few days? Whisper gave me that feeling every time I checked in. I used it for a good month until I learned it was draining my cell phone battery and using my monthly data allowance. That was literally the only reason I stopped reading it. On the other hand, Whisper is creepy because people who only know you by your secrets want to date you. If they knew me in real life, I don’t think they’d actually notice me. It’s not real, if that makes sense. And let’s not forget that if you confess about your interest in horror and murderers, you can get personal messages about people who aspire to be murderers by luring in other horror fans as victims.