Title: The Wilderness Within
Author: John Claude Smith
Category: Adult Psychological Horror
Publisher/Date: Trepidatio Publishing/6 October 2017
The forest is alive.
While visiting fellow writer, Frank Harlan Marshall, Derek Gray senses a palpable dread within Frank’s house and the forest that surrounds it; a subtle, malignant sentience. What should be a joyous event, as they await the surprise arrival of a long-lost friend, comedian “Dizzy Izzy” Haberstein, is fraught with unease Derek does not understand.
Derek’s confusion is upended by the chance meeting with musician Alethea, formerly of Dark Angel Asylum, a band that dropped out of sight once the leader, Aleister Blut, ended up in an insane asylum. As their relationship blossoms, Derek’s disorientation at the hands of the forest manifests as his world turns sideways…and one of Frank’s fictional creations—a murderous monster named Average Joe—gains foothold in the surreal, psychological terrain.
As the worlds of reality and fantasy meld, what transpires bounds from deeply profound to pure madness.
As much as I love horror, I tend to be skeptical of a lot of psychological horror stories because it’s all too easy to make them veer into ableist territory — there are SO many stories out there that rely on a character being “cr*zy” or “m*d” or “ins*ne” in order for there to be any story in the first place, and this book was no exception to that. In fact, this book plays into that ableist trope on multiple occasions, and it’s tiring. The characters were rather flat and had little substance, and I just didn’t care.
In addition to the ableism, there were multiple racist comments, sexist comments, homomisic jokes that the main character actually took the time to explain to the reader why he laughed at, and fatmisic comments, and the further I read the more angry I got. None of these things were central to the book at all — they were just the personalities of these characters. They weren’t in-your-face lines, but they certainly bothered me while I was reading. I felt myself distancing myself from the narrator and not really caring what happened to him because I didn’t like him as a person.
***If you don’t want to read spoilers or anything weird about penises, skip here!***
The climax of the novel was just disgusting, and it was literally a climax. The narrator starts turning into a tree while he is having sex, and his erect penis is literally what’s keeping him rooted into the ground. Are you kidding me? Honestly, if I’d have known that this graphic sex scene was what was going to end up being the high point of the novel, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered reading. The last thing I need is a sexist pig making this much of a big deal out of his erection. No, thanks.
***End spoilers and penises***
While I was reading this book, it felt most of the time like there was just nothing happening. Coupling that with my apathy for the characters, I ended up really bored by this book. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but I didn’t care for it at all and I can’t say I’d recommend it.
Final rating: 2 of 5 stars
So, clearly my first book for #ReadersCrossing was a flop. It happens. This was the book I was most worried about not liking, so now that I’ve gotten it out of the way I can read the books that I think I might like a bit more!
How is #ReadersCrossing going for you? Have you read any good books for it yet?