"The Sludge" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Great Old Ones Publishing
Written by David Bernstein
2016, 131 pages, Fiction
Released on July 4th, 2016
After a bank robbery goes bad, Cole and his younger brother Derek escape to the wilds of Lolo National Forest with the plan on hiding out until the heat dies down. Cole thought he had all things accounted for; nobody knew of the hideout (not even Derek), he stocked with the necessities, and with that lake so close by, they can fish for additional food. What he didn’t plan for, however, is the illegal toxic dumping in that lake, and the creature that now resides in it. Nor did he account for those meddling hikers. Even the best laid plans go awry.
If you are looking for a good time with violence and monsters, you won’t go wrong with David Bernstein’s The Sludge. The novella moves at a breakneck speed, mainly because there’s no fat in it. Hell, there’s barely any character development, and with a book like this, it’s really not necessary. The Sludge is a monster book through and through, and the characters are there for cannon fodder and little else.
Oddly, one of the most developed characters in the novella is the monster itself. Bernstein gets you right into its mind, not unlike Stephen King gave you the point of view from the world’s best pet, Cujo. Here, however, the killer starts small – very, very small – and it’s nothing more than luck that releases its fury out to the world (or at least the Lolo National Forest).
If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s this weird sex triangle thing that’s shoehorned into the book. The campers consist of two couples, the women of which have slept together. The way it’s introduced is so awkward, it feels like a second thought of Bernstein’s, and then it’s barely brought up again (other than the fact that one of the men is bisexual). It’s all very out of place because it adds nothing to the story. If there were a four-way fight between the hikers because of their sexual histories and preferences, I could dig it. But instead, you get an announcement of WE GOT LESBIANS HERE!, and then it kind of goes away.
However, even though that part slightly takes you out of the story, the swift pacing quickly gets you back to what’s important: fear, violence and escape.
The Sludge is my first introduction to David Bernstein, and I’m eager to check out more of his work. If you like monster movies where a character’s only purpose is to be a victim, you’ll going to want to give this a shot.