*Note from Mich: Until now, I’ve not used this blog for publishing reviews. But, since I’ve been recently reading some excellent books which don’t fit on the other sites, it’s probably about time I started. This is the first of several book recommendations I’ll be posting over the next few days. Enjoy, and GO GET THE BOOK!*
“You can only live in a world of make-believe for so long, before reality comes calling. It always does.” The simple idea of this statement, which opens the book description of Beast in the Basement, is used to great effect through the entire piece. Ironically, the greatest pleasure in reading Jason Armopp’s horror novella is how he is able to so deftly play with reality and turn what we think is the case on a dime. For this reason, I won’t go too far into detailed plot points because, in fairness to future readers, the unfolding of the tale is something everyone should get to enjoy fully for themselves without me sullying the discovery with any sly hints and reveals.
Let me just say that, when the biggest turn in the story occurred, I actually exclaimed (out loud with great exuberance), “Holy shit, that is so fucking clever!”
Beast in the Basement opens in the midst of a rather dire situation for the main character. He’s hurt and fighting to remain conscious while in the clutches of The Beast. As he loses his struggle, we fade to black and flash back to the start of the story armed with some foreknowledge of what’s to come.
The main character is a writer, working himself to distraction while trying to complete the final installment of a trilogy of wildly successful children’s books. He’s suffered a recent tragedy, is alone in an isolated, old house in the country, and has proceeded to drink himself halfway to oblivion from a combination of grief and stress. And, of course, we also learn he has a terrible housemate, The Beast, which he has locked up in the basement.
Initially, the stress of producing the latest Jade Nexus book on time is reasonable, but the writer hits a snag. Reading his finished first draft, he decides to completely do away with the last six chapters, eliminating all traces of them from every file on his machine. So, with mere days left before his deadline, he must completely rewrite the end of his book.
It doesn’t help that he’s been cursed with distractions galore. First there’s his own grief, coupled with the pressure from his agent and the public to produce a satisfying ending to the Jade Nexus story, resulting in ever-increasing drinking. Then, his peace is broken by an intruder who manages to attack him and get away scot-free, triggering a panicked trip to town for security cameras and alarms. His focus is further tested by an attractive and flirty divorcee who moves in to the nearby cottage. And, then there’s The Beast.
Jason Arnopp’s handling of The Beast, and the main character’s growing dread, is where his writing has its greatest impact. Told in present tense, primarily from inside the writer’s head, we feel his panic with equal intensity and sweat along with him as tries to keep the tenuous hold on his sanity. An excellent example of creeping horror, Arnopp’s brisk prose, with just enough description to inform without dragging, lets the smoldering tension build to a fever pitch as the writer slowly loses his grip. Also notable is the use of original turns of phrase, which give a singular character without the usual cliches barging in to distract from immersion in the story.
When reality does finally intrude on the writer’s mad delusions, it is sudden and can most closely be likened to a karmic punch in the gut. But, unlike most stories built on a “twist”, the reveal is not merely the end in itself, but a catalyst to shift the tone of the story to a different and more gut-wrenching sort of dread. What we learn about the writer and his own story is as effecting as what came before, different but equally horrible.
If you want a great and absorbing read that you won’t want to put down until you get to the very end (which, by the way, is yet another major gut-punch), buy this book and read it without delay. You will be very glad you did.
You can purchase the book as a Triple-pack of all the major formats on the book’s official site, HorrorNovella.com
You can also find out more about Jason Arnopp (who is a very groovy and talented cat) at his official site, JasonArnopp.com.
If you enjoyed this review and would like to say thanks by buying with our Amazon affiliate link, just click the title to purchase Beast In The Basement