"Edging" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Burning Willow Press
Written by Michael Schutz
2017, 338 pages, Fiction
Released on 30 March 2017
Edging by Michael Schutz is a highly entertaining and fast paced read, which I whizzed through in no time. Starting the book totally blind, and knowing nothing of the author, I was pleasantly surprised to be dragged into the crazy story of a new designer drug, Intenze. This product is so powerful and hallucinogenic, it is compared to riding the scariest rollercoaster and watching the most intense horror film both at the same time. Or perhaps comparing it to your own worst nightmare is a better idea? Author Jason White said this in his preview blurb: "If Jim Thompson and William S. Burroughs were to collaborate on a novel about dark psychedelic drugs, murder, and the supernatural, this would be the result." When I read that quote I thought, "Yeah right, that's an overreaction if ever I heard one." But in actual fact, Jason hits the nail on the head.
Intenze offers a very short high intensity experience which is referred to as edging, and the plot explores how this very addictive drug spreads its deadly web through the sleepy town of New London. The reader drifts in and out of the lives of multiple characters, from how they initially discover the drug to the horrors of where it eventually takes them. Like all drugs, it impacts characters in differing ways, but common traits exist, with all users suffering from crippling fear and paranoia.
Taking Intenze leads to quick addiction and the author graphically shows where those who overdo edging end up. Bearing in mind a single hit does not even last one minute, you require serious cash to support this habit (a fact the dealers are well aware of). Schutz fires off some obvious warning shots about the dangers of drugs, but never patronises, and as larger numbers of the town fall under the influence of Intenze, it descends into chaos.
Let's not forget this is a horror novel and for some, a drug which turns users into paranoid psychopaths might be enough for a major plotline. But not Michael Schutz, as he silkily weaves a tremendous supernatural aspect into the novel. The fear created by so many people constantly edging causes an out-of-this-world bodiless entity known as The Thirst to turn his evil eye on New London, sensing weakened new prey to feast upon. The demon thrives on terror and gets more and more powerful when havoc runs riot, especially if his presence exacerbates their fear. The Thirst is a great character and quickly starts stalking the new addicts of New London who really have enough problems of their own without a bogeyman sneaking into their peripheral vision.
The characterisation makes this novel a real standout. Schutz has the impressive ability of quickly sketching out believable back stories and I found myself really rooting for some of the characters and how they battle to hold onto their normal lives. This is crucial to the success of the novel, as the paranoia brought on by edging is in stark contrast to the daily routines the characters previously led. My favourite is the family that has a pivotal role to the story; Trish and Rick are having marriage problems but will not talk openly about them, they also have young twins Tammy and Tim. When Trish starts to edge, the fragile family dynamics take a major hit and The Thirst moves in. This is powerfully written stuff and the twins are superb feisty little characters.
The twins cleverly spill into another storyline, Miss Renee Parker is their kindergarten teacher and for a reason she just cannot fathom does not like the twins. So imagine the possibilities if the teacher mistakenly takes the drug after her boyfriend hides it in her drugs cabinets and her paranoia overspills into the school classroom? There are many other entertaining story strands, including those set in the local high school, the old folks home and the drug dealers themselves. Many of these plotlines cleverly overlap and when The Thirst is thrown into the mix, the end result is an energetic and highly readable horror thriller. I'm very happy to give Michael Schutz's latest novel Edging a five star review and I am sure there are many dark fiction readers who will be highly entertained by this original and quirky page turner.