GULF – by Shelly Campbell
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Available: April 2021
Verdict: 3.25 out of 5.0
Overview: David is the youngest in a large family that vacations in a cabin every summer. All his life, he’s been largely ignored and bullied by his siblings and mother. Only his father and brother, James, seem to care about him at all. This year, their cottage has a new extension, a room hidden behind a locked door. When David discovers the key, he expects to claim a new room for himself. Instead he opens a gateway to reflecting dimensions of his world in different timelines, all seemingly abandoned. However, something hungry exists on the other side of that door that comes out at night, looking to get through to David’s world. Now he must find a way to keep his family away from the room while seeking out a way to close the gateway forever.
The Good: Campbell proves early on that she is a skilled writer and narrator. The idea is familiar, but interesting, and the drama comes full force throughout. Gulf is a slow and quiet horror novel that focuses on its lead character above all else. The final few pages also prove to be a godsend, leaving the reader with the promise of a sequel that could prove fantastical. Without going into detail, let’s just say I went from viewing the finale as average, to being excited for what could come next.
The Bad: I found it a little difficult to like David; I understand he’s been ignored much of his life, but his character is still too whiny. There was also a lack of action, which made the pacing a bit too slow and tedious at times. In my reading, I found some small inconsistencies scattered throughout, such as the family’s language – in the beginning, they get mad over the kids saying fake curses like “crap,” but then in the second half of the book everyone actually starts cursing and no one complains about it. Lastly, for a group of “kids” all of legal adult age (with the exception of David, who is 17), they all acted like they were middle grade in age, which was often distracting.
The Takeaway: Gulf faces some annoying pitfalls, but also does an excellent job in building a character-driven story with a cool concept worth exploring further. It certainly doesn’t hurt that its final moments allude to so much more going on behind the scenes, so here’s to hoping Campbell returns to this world in a sequel!
> File Under: slow building horror … drama focused … character driven … dimensional hopping … hell … gateways … demon hounds
> Also Read: Under the Lesser Moon
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> Aiden’s scoring system – (5) Perfection (4) Loved it (3) Enjoyed it (2) Disliked it (1) Hard pass / Aiden generally will not write a review for anything that scores lower than a (3) in his mind / DNF means “Did Not Finish” – this could be because of the writing, scheduling conflicts, lack of interest, or content; it does not necessarily mean the book was terrible