This year, I have been introduced to numerous indie authors that have blown my mind; Aaron Dries is one of them. Never have I read horror quite like his brand. Maybe I just haven’t lived (as some of your diehards might say), but I grew up on horror in the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz – they are so very tame in comparison to Dries.
First, I checked out House of Sighs, which left me (what’s the youthful term? Is it – ) shook. I felt sick during multiple scenes, and there were quite a few. Never has a book done that to me. I wasn’t even sure how to process it. With the exception of excitement and interest – which are common in reading – I haven’t ever really felt such emotion when reading something before that book; it was my first taste of pure terror in written form. I thought I had read work that was gripping before, but I suppose I was wrong; it feels like Dries’ words are literally clenching down on your shoulders as a cackle echoes into your ear as you read.
So, naturally, I knew I wanted to try him again (even if House of Sighs left me a little scared). Next, I went with the sequel, The Sound of His Bones Breaking. That one didn’t bother me until the very end; but that final sequence had my heart fluttering with anxiety.
A few weeks ago, in the midst of toppling over a stack of TBR, I realized I had A Place for Sinners, set for a reissue via Poltergeist Press. I didn’t make it my priority at first, but I did start reading it slowly. About halfway through, I finally moved the title to the top of my list. And here’s the thing: reading an Aaron Dries’ novel is like inviting a nightmare to crawl up under your fingernails, dig its way up your arms, through your shoulders, and down your spine. You’ll tense up, shiver, and quiver, and finally ask yourself, “Jesus, what did I just read?” A Place for Sinners is most likely the most uncomfortable and unnerving thing I have ever read.
Now, granted, I had my minor qualms with the book. There was at least one sequence (maybe two) in which I got a bit confused as to what was actually happening. Also, I hate the death of children, especially when they are as gruesomely detailed as they are in Dries’ work. That sort of thing unsettles me so much so that I nearly put down the book (same thing happened with House of Sighs, and the end of The Sound of His Bones Breaking). Now, I get the point of it; this is horror, ladies and gentleman, and dying kids will shock most of us to our core. Nevertheless, it does push me away from a title.
My complaints aside, it is hard to deny the talent in Dries’ writing. The man has a profound and unique way with words. They are darkly poetic and hypnotizing, the sort of thing I could never produce myself. The fucking nightmares this guy must have to write this stuff…I worry about him. I mean…the shark. I don’t think I will ever forget that character. She became one of the most haunting creations I’ve ever followed.
“The color was RED.”
Yeah, there’s plenty of blood in this one. And you’ve got to love Aaron’s author note at the end: “The island of Koh Mai Phaaw…does not exist…even if it did, I wouldn’t recommend you visit there. For, um, obvious reason.”
No shit, Aaron! That place is horrific!
Horror fans, do yourself a favor and look up this Aussie talent. Because that’s exactly what he is: talent.
*This review first appeared on www.kendallreviews.com