I had the extreme pleasure of reading this book a few months ago. I immediately procured a copy once it was available on sale through http://www.godless.com because I sincerely believe that Baltisberger deserves all the support the indie horror community is able to provide.
Abhorrent Siren takes Baltisberger’s love of kaiju and elevates it to a new level beyond what readers had witnessed from previous titles like Blood & Mud and the epic poem, War of Dictates. This book is truly the love letter to the body horror and giant monster genres readers didn’t even know they needed.
It’s all too easy to get excited watching kaiju movies while never conceiving of the desperation and terror of those in the path of whatever horrifying monstrosity is lumbering their way. All too often, we witness those tales from the perspectives of individuals at a safe distance or the larger-scale perspective of the monsters themselves. Abhorrent Siren is not one of those stories. This book is Cloverfield rather than Pacific Rim. We are not on even footing with the creature slithering its slimy way North across Texas. We are not at any sort of remove from the horrific events taking place, at least not for long.
This is not to say that we aren’t provided with some perspective from those analyzing the situation and struggling to find both an explanation and a solution. Following the scientists, as they race against both the clock and the toxic mist exuded from the monstrous axolotl, to share their findings with those who might be able to do something is fascinating and rife with harrowing experiences along the way.
As we receive intimate, first-hand experiences of the body horror happening at ground level in advance of the creature’s arrival, we find ourselves equally horrified and disgusted by the transformations taking place both in mind and body. As readers, we are never allowed to forget the afflicted–while malformed and misshapen in every conceivable way–were once human beings. That constant reminder that these were once people serves to make the events all the more awful.
The author wasn’t satisfied simply to write a violent, breakneck-paced monster story. As with other material from Baltisberger, there are layers of subtext and social commentary laced within his viscerally poetic imagery. Embedded within what is a captivating–sometimes alarming–tale of grotesque, splattery horror, one will find a scathing meta-commentary on the opioid epidemic plaguing America. As we witness Barbara’s inability to escape the nightmare unfolding around her in her attempts to distance herself from the clinic, the commentary becomes all the more poignant.
Just wait until you reach the point in the story when Barbara comes home to Owen. It’s all downhill from there in the most gloriously, gratuitously disgusting way–especially after she brings another partner back with her.