"Beast in the Basement" Book Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Published by Retribution Books
Official Website: http://www.horrornovella.com/
Written by Jason Arnopp
2012, 113 pages, Horror
Released on 12th September 2012
I read a book. I did. In itself that might not sound like much of an achievement, but when you factor in a full-time job, running HorrorTalk and a family life with kids, there's precious little time to sit still, let alone sit still and concentrate on a book. Sure, I've nosed through non-fiction and reference books, but pretty much anything with a synopsis that requires full attention from start to finish has evaded me. When I got my goody bag at Frightfest 2012, I found it laden with two tomes that I vowed to read, and not consign to unloved shelf-filler. I broke that vow of course, but recently we had the offer of reviewing a new horror novella from Jason Arnopp.
Arnopp is a scriptwriter and novelist responsible for a number of Doctor Who fiction pieces, a Friday the 13th spin-off novel and last year's rather cracking British indie flick Stormhouse. His Twitter feed is a constant source of pleasure as he's almost always cheerful and never bemoaning what life throws at him like much of the Twitterati. So in order not to upset that sunny disposition, I had no choice but to knuckle down and read his book.
It helps incredibly that Beast in the Basement is a wondrously entertaining read, otherwise my return to bookwormery may well have been short-lived. It tells the story of a reclusive author who isolates himself to finish the last in a series of popular fantasy novels while battling with guilt, loss, grief and a mind that's a little obsessive. He's under pressure to finish by his deadline, he's had a burglar break in and assault him and now an attractive single woman has moved in at the next cottage as further distraction. And there's the small matter of the beast in his basement. The story is told from the first person, so the reader spends the whole time trapped within the psyche of its central character.
In creating Beast in the Basement, Arnopp has also created something that's incredibly difficult to discuss without spoiling huge portions of the book. And I'm not talking "don't mention the butler did it" kind of spoilers (the butler didn't do it, incidentally). I'm talking major Cabin in the Woods "don't say anything, just let people find out for themselves" spoilers. So I won't, just run along and buy it will you?
The characters are extremely well written and, importantly, believable, even though the novella is a short space to get to know them. From the off, it's fairly evident the protagonist is a tortured soul and the story pushes a palpable sense of his fragile mind. Arnopp teases the reader through a series of events that are seen in a particular way through the eyes and mind of the book's principle character, only to sucker punch with amazing reveals. It's a story like Shrek's onion, layered, and each time a layer is peeled back revealing what's underneath, it's another mind-bending direction that the story moves in. The only slight downside to this onslaught of fiendish revelations is that you start to try and anticipate what might be behind characters' motives or actions, and in one particular case my prediction was bang on the mark.
You can only get Beast in the Basement in electronic format presently. Digital distribution has facilitated this brilliant novella's release at a price point that makes its purchase an absolute no-brainer. If it were a paper book, I could trot out the old cliché about it being a page-turner. But it's not; it's only available for e-readers, so I hereby coin the phrase: Beast in the Basement is a real page-swiper.
You can buy Beast in the Basement direct from the author's website and get a triple pack of different formats to suit most e-readers. Alternatively you can click on the Amazon links above to purchase the Kindle version at the same price.