First published in April 2011 by ChiZine Publications, David Nickle’s novel of eerie horror entitled ‘Eutopia’ sets down a firm and establishing platform for the Canadian author to show the world his dark and imaginative capabilities.

DLS Synopsis:
It
s 1911 and Jason Thistledown lays down his deceased mother in their nearby barn, leaving the seventeen-year-old alone in the world once and for all.  With spring on its way and the unforgiving snow finally thawing, Jason sets his mind to finally burying his mother.  But with the sudden arrival of a long-lost and never-before-heard-of Aunt Germaine, Jason learns that not only did his blessed mother die from a lethal dose of an unknown illness, but so has the entire town of Cracked Wheel of which they resided.  Together, Jason and his newly-acquainted Aunt leave the now silent town of Cracked Wheel for the utopian mill town of Eliada, nestled in the picturesque mountainside of Idaho.

Meanwhile, things in Eliada aren’t going quite as peacefully as the town’s founder, Garrison Harper, would have liked.  A band of Klu Klux Klan members ambush the negro doctor Andrew Waggoner for hanging; but first, they have their cruel eyes set on the deformed hospital resident known to those that are aware of his presence as ‘Mr Juke’.  However their attempt at hanging this strange mute mysteriously fails and their follow-up lynching of the doctor is halted with the gallant arrival of the local Sam Green.

Upon arriving at this recently troubled but supposedly utopian town, Jason is thrust into near madness when he is suddenly tied down to be left overnight in the darkened confines of the strangely elaborate ‘quarantine’ section of the hospital.  There he witnesses ungodly miniature demons and a haunting figure lording over the hideous creatures.  How can he tell anyone of what he witnessed that night?  And who indeed would even believe him?  For is his own sanity actually what is now in question?

Somewhere in the middle of it all is a dark and tangled web of corruption, set about by the hospital’s lead practitioner Nell Bergstrom and his connection with Aunt Germaine Frost and their questionable work with eugenics.  There are strange forces at work here and Jason Thistledown, together with the help of Dr Waggoner, are suddenly in the thick of it all.  But the secrets that inhabit the serene setting of Eliada are far darker and more terrifying than either of them would ever have imagined.  For Eliada is a far cry from anything that should ever be called utopia…

DLS Review:
Nickle sets off the tale with a quietly cautious undertone of unseen terror, gradually grinding in an almost overwhelming feeling of clinging tension to the hidden core of the story.  As the plot slowly peels away its layers, with the characterisation of our two principal protagonists already masterfully established, the haunting visions of this dark secret begin to emerge with the staggering impact of a charging leviathan. 

Where the novel really succeeds above all else is the almost palpable and oppressive atmosphere that lingers over every page; saturating each and every word with its clinging and unrelenting gloominess.  The reader quickly becomes swallowed up in this haunting cloud of constant impending doom, which allows Nickle, when the time is right and the reader is truly on edge with the tale, to suddenly delve deep into his twisted imagination, bringing forth monumental visions that haunt, terrify and chill to the bone.

Gratuitous and explicit images of the horror on hand is never overly thrust into the face of the reader, but instead is allowed to become exposed during gut-wrenching snippets of terrifying action, then laid low to smoulder in the readers mind until the next exposure to the true horror of the novel is unleashed.

With that said, one particular scene does hail further into the horrific and downright disturbing than the majority of the book purposefully participates in.  Here instead, Nickle wreaks havoc with the reader’s senses, as he carves out a grotesque and painstakingly descriptive scene detailing the appalling labour and birth of one of the demon-like creatures unto the ravaged form of a young girl.

‘Eutopia’ is an elaborate novel, pulling together intricate interwoven subplots, with a dark and eerie mystery constantly behind it all.  Mark Morris’s forceful but swift visions of the grotesque, mixed with elements of early Clive Barker dark fiction, with the final all-encompassing visionary of Lovecraft knitted in for good measure.

The novel is as chaotic as it is inspired.  The levels and layers that form the crux of the plot are ingenious in their creation.  The delivery is gripping, enthralling and utterly engaging from the outset to the near-epic finale.  Nickle never once backs away from taking on the darker route.  Instead he embraces the numerous twists and turns that see the storyline fall deeper and deeper into an abyss of abominable corruption.

David Nickle has reincarnated Lovecraft and spun a new direction for the terror that is to follow.  This is certainly not the last we will have heard from this talented new face in horror.

The novel runs for a total of 320 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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