Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Hardcover, 496 pages

Published January 10th 2017 by Gallery Books

Nick Cutter is one of the hottest names in horror fiction, and for good reason. The ironically this hot name is a pen name for Canadian literary author Craig Davidson most well known a novel Rust and Bone. I have read all four Nick Cutter books now and I thought the praise was certainly warranted. I enjoyed The Deep and the Acolyte but I didn't like either one nearly as much as the Cutter debut The Troop. That debut was a wicked intense character rich body horror novel. At a time when major publishers were shy about hardcover horror it was a major hit.

It worked in part because despite a modern settings it felt retro in all the right ways. It felt like a a golden age of horror paperback classic. People rightly compared to it to classic Stephen King. I thought it was an effective and disturbing horror novel that made the best of a lean prose style.

So now we have Little Heaven. First off it is nice to see Cutter shake the Bentley Little title disease that has plagued him. Finally a novel that is not THE ___ Whatever. To me Little Heaven is a masterpiece of horror fiction and pays tribute to 80's in a even stronger sense than The Troop did. As good as the last two Cutter books were they missed that retro feel that made The Troop special.

So I have seen again the comparisons to classic Stephen King but in this case I don't see it at all. This is lazy analysis from readers who might not know the influences on this novel. This novel has more Clive Barker and Robert McCammon in it's DNA than King. I would also argue the setting and characters give it more of a Cormac McCarthy feel than King. With the structure and dialogue a argument could also be made that Tarantino was a influence.

Cutter proudly wheres his influence on his sleeve, and that is why we talk so much about it. Take all this narrative chemistry and it adds it up to novel that feels like others but is actually like nothing I have read before. Personally I would use the word masterpiece. In part because I think a novel that delivers exactly the feeling of classics and causes me to turn pages is all I am asking for.

This is the story of four trained killers given the mission to rescue a young boy whose father has taken him to a compound called Little Heaven in the New Mexico desert. Cutter clearly has fashioned this cult after real life cults and doesn't hide it as you discover in the second half. We know quickly that these killers are not normal humans. The narrative switches back and forth from the mid 60's to the 80's and the structure unrolls the story in a unconventional but very effective manner.

We know the four mercenaries survived but they changed and are haunted by what they have seen. The supernatural elements have surreal quality that brings to mind early Clive Barker. Monsters like the Long Walker were disturbing in how unnatural they were yet described so well you see them in your mind and were nothing short of creepy.

The tone reminded me of McCammon's Gone South. This comes from the characters that are both scary and hilarious at times. The prose itself was excellent. Cutter creates vivid landscapes and the horrors pop off the page causing several cringe worthy moments of supernatural horror.

I made a mistake reading some of the reviews on goodreads, and the litreactor review by Max Booth that called this book a rehash of IT. I honestly was not sure we all read the same book. So yeah I think you should read Little Heaven. I think it is the best Cutter book and personally I think the best horror novel in years.

Now something new. Below is a audio review/ discussion between author Anthony Trevino and myself talking about the book. it's 20 minutes the first half is non-spoilers and the second half talks more about the writing in the book. Check it out. I am going to do a few more of these from time to time on the blog.

No comments: