First published back in October of 2012, ‘The Atheist’ was a short story written by J.R. Hayes (the vocalist to US grindcore outfit Pig Destroyer) which was included within the deluxe edition of their fifth studio album ‘Book Burner’.

DLS Synopsis:
The snowballing events that ultimately led to America losing all sense of freedom started with just one man.  Pastor John Hammer was a master showman. His church grew and grew, until he was watched, followed and worshipped by the whole of the US.  And then one fateful day he made the announcement.  It was God’s will for him to become President of the United States.   It was his rightful destiny.

From that moment on America was doomed.  Andy Deacon – a former Professor of Biology at George Mason University – knew it was bad news from the outset.  Religion had never settled right with him.  He’d always seen the inherent corruption in it.  It was like a disease.

For the last five years he’d been living in the mountains and valleys of Virginia.  By himself, living in the wild.  Sleeping in deserted bear dens and abandoned coal mines.  Hunting with spears and knives and crude traps.  Surviving the best he could whilst evading the locals and dodging the Book Burners.

For this was all that life had to offer now.  Life was a struggle if you didn’t obey the word of God.  It had become a constant battle.  To be always on the run.  But it was better than the alternative.  Better than becoming one of them…

DLS Review:
First thing that has to be said is that vocalist J.R. Hayes can write.  God damn can this man invoke a sense of smouldering tension in his work.  This is one powerfully thought-provoking piece of fiction – somewhere between Orwell’s ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’ (1949), Simon Law’s ‘Bringing Forth The End Of Days’ (2009) and an non-xenophobic ‘The Turner Diaries’ (1978).

From the start the reader is thrown straight into the snowballing events that quickly escalate to this evangelical pastor becoming the President of the United States, Christianity being declared the national religion, the education system being dismantled, and the whole fucking country becoming a cesspit of ultra-religious madness.

Of course everything is magnified a thousand times over for a proper sledgehammer-to-the-face effect.  Violence and utterly fucked-up Christian totalitarianism dominates the entire US.  Capital and corporal punishment are brought into full effect.  Trust me, these guys make Nazism seem like a frigging walk in the park.

It’s only a short read, but Hayes nevertheless crams in the goods.  We’ve got marauding Muslim bandits fighting back guerrilla warfare style.  There’s the rise of Hammer’s power and Deacon’s subsequent dismissal of it all.  There’s fighting, hiding, running and then a final heart-pounding stance.  It’s all in there and by Lucifer’s Beard does it get your adrenaline pumping.

I have to admit that the sheer quality of this short story was a bit of a surprise for me.  I’m a fan of Pig Destroyer, and have always found Hayes’ lyrics punchy and wonderfully provocative.  Furthermore Hayes’ previous slice of flash fiction entitled ‘Natasha’ (2004), which was included within the ‘Terrifyer’ album inlay, was a nightmarish vision which toyed with vampirism, but only in the end only delivered something of a vaguely loose plot.  However, the quality of this far longer story truly blew me away.  From the outset I was locked in.  Utterly absorbed and drawn straight into the anger-inducing madness.  Hayes had me pinned to the wall and pounded at my senses until I could finally crawl away bloodied and beaten but feeling that little bit stronger inside.

The short runs for a total of 20 pages, which includes 7 full page illustrative photos.

© DLS Reviews

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