"The Atrocities" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Tor Books
Written by Jeremy C. Shipp
2018, 112 Pages, Fiction
Released on April 17th, 2018
First and foremost, if you plan on reading The Atrocities (and you should), do not read the book's synopsis. It contains a spoiler that while it's something you discover early on, will somewhat dampen the effect of the reveal. Fortunately, I had only the vaguest notion of what this novella was about before diving in, and I'm happy I didn't know about this strange turn of events disclosed in the first line of the two descriptions I've read since or I would have been annoyed. Don't worry, I'll get to a spoiler free synopsis shortly.
I've mentioned numerous times that one of the things I love about reviewing is I often read a book by an author or genre I normally wouldn't read, and the majority of the time it's a pleasurable experience. When HorrorTalk got the opportunity to review Jeremy Shipp's latest novella, The Atrocities, I was told by fellow reviewer, Shane, that I should review it. (He would have himself, but he, as is the norm, was/is buried in things to review). Having followed Shipp for some time on social media, I thought it was high time to delve into his writing. With The Atrocities, I was able to both check out an author I've never read before and visit a genre, gothic horror, I normally pass on by. I enjoyed both.
I knew I was going to dig the book as soon as I read the first paragraph:
Turn left at the screaming woman with a collapsing face. Turn right at the kneeling man with bleeding sores the size of teacups. If you come across a big-breasted bear with a child's head in her jaws, you're going the wrong way.
Now that is how you do an opener kids. And the solid writing only continues from there.
The Atrocities follows Danna Valdez, a governess charged with the care and education of Mr. and Mrs. Evers' daughter, Isabella. Given a series of tests before she even arrives at the house, Danna soon has her doubts about the job she's taking on. But soon enough she accepts the challenge and things get very weird very fast. Or do they? Turns out, Danna isn't the most reliable narrator out there.
With a plethora of interesting characters from the maid to Mr. Evers to Danna herself, Shipp crafts an interesting mystery as to what in the actual hell is going on in that house, leading up to an ending that is though-provoking enough to demand a second read.
While Shipp does a great job in both character development and stringing you along willingly to find out the end of this novella, there is a bit too much purple prose for my taste. However, this being my introduction to Shipp's work, I can't say if this flowery language is because of the genre of this particular piece or if it's something found in all of his writings. Here's the rub, though: I enjoyed the book enough to read more from the author. That's telling.
Overall, The Atrocities is an intriguing mystery with an unreliable narrator that will keep you guessing to the end and thinking about the finale long after it's over. Gothic fans will devour it for sure, and even if you're like me and prefer your writing style to be quick and to the point, Jeremy Shipp has more than enough talent to keep you entertained throughout.