Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page
In horror, gore and shock can be the least effective tools to use. Note I said “can be.” The problem is in overuse and using it for its own sake. Wrath James White does not have that problem. He knows how to use gore and make it means something. I’ve read quite a bit of horror, and White is the only author who has left me feeling disturbed. Succulent Prey is a prime example of how an author can use shock to help make a cannibalistic serial killer a sympathetic character.
Yaccub’s Curse(2009, Necro Publications) did and did not work for me, mostly due to expectations. I’ll start by quoting the back cover:
Malik is an enforcer for the most notorious drug dealer in G-town. But when he is ordered to kill a local crack whore and her newborn child he has a revalation[sic] that leads him into a desperate battle with a man who might be Satan himself.
When I started reading this, I was expecting the novel to get to that crack whore and revelation in the first few chapters. Instead that event happens in Chapter 18, 240 pages into the story. That’s when the story as advertised really begins. What comes beforehand, though is a gripping tale of a young man’s descent into crime and murder. It’s something of a biopic, with a portion of it being autobiographical given what I’ve read from White’s blog.*
It’s still good reading, even though the fantastic is non-existent through most of the book and liminous at best. Yaccub and his occult/genetic manipulations are given a mention, but don’t play a role. It doesn’t need to — you could write off Yaccub, the messianic revelation and the spiritual conflict of as delusions of a drug-addled psychopath. The horror is expressed through the racism and violence all throughout the novel. Seeing an intelligent young man like Malik engage in the life he does is what makes this a horror novel. Make no mistake, Malik does not fall — he makes an active choice to murder in service to Scratch.
White delivers a gritty tale of violence, which he uses effectively. Readers won’t be shocked by Malik’s activities, but what’s going through Malik’s mind before, during and after. It’s the dehumanization of an intelligent person that makes this story horrific. At it’s core, Yaccub’s Curse is about how cyclical racism is — which reminds me of Octavia Bulter’s novel Mind of My Mind. It’s also a damned good reminder that we have not put racism behind us; that it will take great effort to change our nature.
The writing itself does stutter a little when one early chapter leaps out of first person POV, but it’s the only issue I had. At one point Malik does take a turn for the philosophical, but it’s necessary to show he has the potential to break the cycle, or the very least his own cycle.
I recommend it with a caveat. Don’t get this book looking for monsters not guised in human skin.
*To learn more about Wrath James White, be sure to check out his blog at WordsOfWrath.blogspot.com