First published back in September of 2020, US author William Holloway’s novella ‘Blackwood Estates’ offered up a fast-paced Lovecraftian cosmic horror of near-apocalyptic proportions.

DLS Synopsis:
Phil Nada wasn’t just a respectable thriller writer, but he was now also a best-selling author. He’d sacrificed his passion for genre fiction to achieve this, but he was now reaping the financial rewards. 

However, as soon as that first big advance cheque had landed, his ex-wife Casey had left him. As such, it was now just him, his young son, and their German Shepard, Benny, knocking around in their new big empty house. Phil felt like a broken man. A beta male whose best friend was a dog.

It was around the time of their split that his son, Scotty, had been diagnosed with autism, leaving the young boy with the speech capacity of a two-year-old. Furthermore, Casey didn’t bother much with Scotty, so it was pretty much down to Phil to do all of the parenting. Not that he minded. Scotty was his world. Scotty and Benny. And then that small world of his came crashing down around him. 

It was as unexpected as it was otherworldly. A strange canopy of clouds stretching from horizon to horizon, blocked out every inch of the sky above Blackwood Estates. The air turned bone dry, every molecule of moisture seemingly sucked from it. And then the screaming started. All around the neighbourhood, the ear-piercing shrieking of feral children. Rampaging.

Something very, very wrong is happening in this small close-knit community. Something that had not been seen before. Something ungodly.

On his way home, Phil witnesses five little girls disembowelling a cat on the lawn across from his house. Others around the neighbourhood are cowering away from their beloved children. And when Phil gets home, he finds his in-home nurse, Tawana, brutally murdered.

But it’s hearing the words coming out of his son’s mouth that scares him the most. His son who could barely speak a single word previously. Now he was verbalising every sentence perfectly, and in a multitude of languages. Furthermore, and most worryingly, he seemed to have adapted the syntax of an educated sociopath from the 1890s.

It was clear something had taken hold of the kids, including his beloved Scotty. Something that made them violent. Possessed by others who seemed to seek out blood, death and chaos. However, there are still far worse things to come. The Hunters of the Outer Dark have found this place. Bridged the void in the space between spaces.

This should never have happened, but somehow it did. Someone has caused something truly terrible to occur, and because of this, everything is being destroyed. Everything lost.

Annihilation awaits them all…

DLS Review:
If there’s one certainty in this world, it’s that William Holloway knows how to pen dark, Lovecraftian cosmic horror. This here novella’s a perfect example.

The story somewhat feels akin to an elaborate weaving together of John Wyndham’s ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ (1957), Rich Hawkins’ ‘Maniac Gods’ (2018), David Moody’s ‘Straight To You’ (1996) and the big-ass sandworms from ‘Dune’ (1965). Yeah, there’s some fucking good ingredients thrown into the pot here. And Holloway stitches this Frankenstein’s monster of a story together with the effortless skill of a master craftsman.

For the first half of the novella, the principal threat initially appears to be the possessed children ala ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ (1957). These little brats are on the rampage, torturing and killing everything – especially the cats and dogs around the usually peaceful suburban Blackwood Estate. Think the cover art to Impaled Nazarene’s ‘Road To The Octagon’ (2021) only with dogs hanging from the lampposts instead. Yeah, this tale is as dark as Satan’s piss-hole.

However, this dark tale doesn’t hang up its unveiling-of-the-antagonist boots just there. Instead, Holloway quite frankly railroads everything further with a sudden second layer to the whole shebang. A tsunami fucked-up corruption that comes in the form of none other than Phil Nada’s creepy neighbour – Lloyd H Reynolds, esquire.

So, where do we start with this guy?! He’s basically a Richard Laymon-esque reimagining of a cross between Bob Flanagan and Aleister Crowley. This motherfucker is a nasty piece of work if ever there was one. A dangerously sociopathic nutjob, with a god complex, who’s been quietly nurturing the deep-routed desire to explore the very darkest reaches of the unknown. To reach Sublimity. To explore the space between spaces.

So, you mix these aspects together, with these possessed kids (the possessors having come from Bedlam in the last 1800s), and you get one dark, and insanely twisted tale, that’s crammed to the rafters with skin-crawling scenes of haunting (and downright harrowing) violent horror.

Chuck in a couple of titan caterpillars with hundreds of elephantine legs on them, which emerge like the giant worms from ‘Tremors’ and crash through the crumbling neighbourhood of Blackwood Estates, all this whilst the world around them burns up in the driest, most oppressive heat…and you have yourself a fucking rollercoaster of a cosmic horror ride.

For the horror geeks (or should I say aficionados) amongst us, we’re given a cheeky nod to the mythos established within Holloway’s ‘Singularity Cycle’ books, as well as a brief reference to Lovecraft’s Yog-Sothoth. Almost interlacing and intertwining the books into a mythos greater than the sum of its parts.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this novella crams a fuck-tonne into its page count. As such, there’s very little respite from the constant threats and onslaught of otherworldly horror. All the time this is escalating at a near maniacal rate. The constant sense of utter dread mounting by the minute.

Holloway delivers this cacophony of horror in the only way it could ever be achieved - through short, fast-paced, concise-as-hell chapters that also make it so difficult to put the book down. I’ll just read one more chapter before I put my head down. One more quick chapter to see the nightmare unfold further. Just one more, as my sanity and my soul slowly, quietly, slip away into an abyss of this terrifying writer’s creation.

The novella runs for a total of 141 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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