Wednesday, September 19, 2018

REVIEW: The Atrocities (e-novella) by Jeremy C. Shipp

The Atrocities is gothic horror. It's pretty short - it was only 75 pages on my Nook Simple Touch, and it ended on page 65.


The spooky house and governess heroine made me think this was a historical story at first, but it's actually contemporary-set. Danna has been hired to teach Mr. and Mrs. Evers' young daughter, Isabella. The Evers' home, Stockton House, is an odd place. It used to be a church, and in order to get to it, it's necessary to walk through a labyrinth populated by the Atrocities, statues depicting horrific violence and suffering. Stockton House's interior is no better - every wall and nook and cranny has something grotesque and unsettling on/in it.

Danna has her own horrors to deal with. At times, she slides into what she calls her "hospital dreams," vivid and twisted nightmares that feel terrifyingly real. She tries to focus on the job at hand, teaching Isabella, but it soon becomes clear that there's a lot the Evers didn't tell her about themselves and their daughter.

This had a feel to it that reminded me a lot of the game Fran Bow. Danna's "hospital dreams" were about as horrifying as Fran's visions when she took her pills, and The Atrocities and Fran Bow both had startlingly sudden endings that were open to interpretation.

However, whereas Fran Bow took its time, letting players gradually get to know Fran and the horrors she and others went through prior to the game's beginning, The Atrocities felt like it barely scratched the surface where Danna was concerned. Readers knew she'd once been married, that she had a son who'd died, and that she had a cousin who tried to keep her spirits up by texting her cute pictures on a daily basis. That's pretty much it. Danna's hospital dreams were never really addressed. Did anyone other than her know about them?

The novella's ambiguous ending frustrated me. Taken at face value, it was a "good" ending. Danna's sometimes shaky grasp on reality made me wonder, however, whether her experiences at the end were real, or just something she'd cobbled together to reassure herself. Readers who like this sort of ambiguity may enjoy this, but I wanted something a little more solid.

I loved the overall atmosphere, and the mystery of the Evers family intrigued me. Unfortunately, the ending was a disappointment.

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