To set the stage for this story, the best I can think to suggest is that it’s a twisted abomination crafted by combining Willard (either the 1971 classic or the superior 2003 remake) with the Clive Barker story, “In the Hills, the Cities.” That doesn’t truly capture the sheer giant monster lunacy of what Wilburn’s created here, but it’ll whet the appetite and prepare the reader as best one can. A family curse comes on with a vengeance, rampaging across the southeast, leaving a swath of devastation that can only be explained as a natural disaster. To call it an act of God would be to beg the question of what sort of God would allow such a monstrosity to exist. The intense pacing of Wilburn’s tale propels us forward even as we want to turn back, knowing that nothing good can come of what he’s racing us toward. If he’d written a novel, including more of the family history and details of the events in the distant past, I’d have gleefully settled in to read the whole thing. As captivating as the story gets, with the expanding threat thundering its way across the landscape, I would love to dive into the origins of the curse in greater detail. There’s a thoroughly fascinating story to be told, and maybe if we beg Wilburn enough–in the form of spreading the word of the Ratman–he’ll find himself compelled to share that part of the tale with us in similar detail.
This novella was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com and you can pick it up for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the app. The link is below:
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.