The time of year when it’s too early for Christmas decorations but the joy of summer is long gone. We feel the presence of our ancestors in the air and we feel a darkness so evocative that we consider our mortality.
Hence why we binge watch the Hellraiser trilogy as well as the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
We Irish love this time of year. As Curtis Richards wrote in his novelisation of the first Halloween film:
The horror started on the eve of Samhain, in a foggy vale in Northern Ireland, at the dawn of the Celtic race. And once started, it trod the earth forevermore, wreaking its savagery suddenly, swiftly, and with incredible ferocity.
So it’s nice to combine the visual with the written word.
With (at least) six books out this year, Brian G. Berry is spoiling those who grew up loving trashy horror. Taking ideas that Stephen King might have rejected as being too outlandish, he creates work that reads like good old-fashioned pulp, but you’re too gripped by the writing to notice.
The plot is as straightforward as they come, accurately summed up in the press blurb:
Evil has descended on the students of Edgewood University in the form of a shadowy killer. Pieces of the victims are missing. A masterpiece is forming. Detective John Whitlock of the New Haven Police Department, struggling to gather the hideous pieces of this morbid puzzle, will confront a madman and his designs that no mortal eyes should ever behold.
Nothing particularly deep nor clever. Yet the novel moves swiftly, never lingering on one particular character and does a great job of conjuring up an atmosphere of claustrophobia and paranoia in its university setting. The characters aren’t exactly three dimensional either, but Berry imbues them with enough little details to raise them above mere cannon fodder.
In spite of all that, the idea of the killer collecting parts of his victims resonates on a deeper level in this day and age due to two separate areas of polarisation: the growing influence of AI (leading to job losses in areas like journalism) and the persistent debate around self-identification. Both play into an existential debate about what it means to be human and how we perceive ourselves and our tastes. So it could be interpreted that the killer’s actions are the desperate (and disturbing) cry of a species that has run out of ideas and is struggling to articulate this cry for help.
As you might have already guessed, I thoroughly enjoyed Fragments.
Brian G. Berry, 2023, Fragments. Independently published. ISBN-13: 979-8852204257
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.