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BOOK REVIEW: The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

| 16 September 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

Flame Tree Press – Fiction Without Frontiers
September 2018
Paperback, £9.95
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Horror / Dark Fantasy

5/10

Jayce’s twenty-year-old daughter Emory is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man. But no matter what Shadow throws at him, Jayce won’t stop. He’ll do whatever it takes to find his daughter, even if it means becoming a worse monster than the things that are trying to stop him.

 

This was my first book by Waggoner, Bram Stoker award winner, and he has long been praised as someone who pushes boundaries and does the unexpected. That is certainly true of this book on the small scale. The story as a whole was a little predictable, a couple of things didn’t make sense, and the “twist” was easy to work out from quite early on in the book, though the character seemed intentionally obtuse about the clues at times.

There were certain scenes that definitely pushed boundaries and stepped over lines into discomfort, and a few sexual scenes with dubious consent at best.

He tried pulling both hands free by jerking his arms violently outward, but whatever the hell this thing was, it was too strong. A thin tendril emerged from the middle section of tubing and stretched toward his neck, while another emerged and moved toward his crotch. Both tendrils thickened as they extended until they were the same size as the main mass. One of the tendrils wrapped around his neck, while the other forced its way into his pants, slithered through his pubic hair and wrapped around his penis. Panic set in and he began thrashing back and forth, attempting to free his hands so he could grab hold of the other tendrils and pull them off him. But his exertions proved no more effective than before, and all he managed to do was lose his balance.

Some really interesting building of this shadow-world that sits aside our own.

“You know how a snake grows a new layer of skin and then sheds the old one? Well, reality is the same way. Each nanosecond is sloughed off as a new one takes its place, and all of these dead bits of reality eventually start to pile up, creating a.…” She paused, searching for the right words. “Not a parallel reality, exactly. More like a dark reflection. It’s usually called Shadow, which is as good a name as any, I suppose. It lies alongside ordinary reality, but most people aren’t aware of it. Sometimes they sense it, though. They have a feeling that someone’s watching them, but when they turn around, no one’s there. They experience a chill on the back of their neck for some unknown reason.”

“You smell funny.”
Jayce stared at the man in disbelief.
“Are you kidding me? How can you smell anything other than that cigarette of yours? It stinks like it’s packed with shit instead of tobacco.”
“That’s because it is,” the man said matter-of-factly. “Feces collected from the bowels of dying accident victims, to be specific. I’ll admit it’s an acquired taste, but the buzz is amazing.”

And some deliciously disturbing and creepy explorations of how the shadow world might cause changes in our own while the majority of the “human” population remains clueless.

The torso swells more as the legs and neck are pulled into it. The tail is the first to disappear into the mass, and the legs go next. The neck is longer, so it’s absorbed last. By this point the giraffe’s bleating has dwindled to quiet whimpers which are silenced as the head is pulled into the bulging central mass. It’s like it’s drowning inside itself, Jayce thinks.

She feels the warmth inside her now, feeding on her, growing stronger, becoming…something. Her abdomen swells rapidly, as if she’s experiencing a hyper-fast pregnancy. Her flesh grows tighter, harder, until finally it splits down the middle and something slides out of her with a wet sucking sound. It hits the floor with a heavy smack and just lies there.”

 

While I was a little disappointed by this book on the whole, it did have a lot going for it, and I have to admit that Waggoner has a keen eye for unsettling description. So often, “horror” shies away from the really squicky stuff, and either hints at the darker stuff or delivers a less impactful answer than the reader could have imagined had the author not provided the answers. Waggoner provides the answers and he “goes there”, which is why this book will likely challenge quite a few readers and appeal to fans of bizarre horror.

Unfortunately the combination of a predictable twist and characters for which I felt nothing were enough to stop me getting caught up in this book and hanging on the edge of my seat to see where it would all lead. Though I was still able to appreciate Waggoner’s descriptive strengths and will likely keep an eye out for other books by him in the future.

 

 

Fiction Without Frontiers is a new imprint from Flame Tree Press with a focus towards horror, supernatural, crime, mystery thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy. 
This imprint was launched in September of 2018, with 6 titles from well known and emerging writers within the aforementioned genres, and another three titles releasing in October.
To find out more about
Fiction Without Frontiers and their titles, visit their website, HERE!
Be sure to check back here regularly, as we be reviewing the Fiction Without Frontiers range.

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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