First published back in July of 2017 US author William Holloway’s ‘Song Of The Death God’ formed the second instalment in the author’s dark cosmic horror ‘Singularity Cycle’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
The Ernst’s were a wealthy German family.  As a child Carsten Ernst was the quiet, inquisitive type.  Not like his siblings who dominated their family home.  Uli commanded fear with his razor sharp tongue, whilst Wilhelm used his size and aggression to intimidate and belittle.  Both of Carsten’s brothers were bullies, one sadistically sarcastic and the other brutally thuggish.  But Carsten was like neither.  He was quiet and thoughtful, introspective and unendingly curious, even kind.  But somewhere along the way, that kindness had become extinct.

Their father, Otto Ernst, was nothing more than a reclusive drunken wreck.  Their mother had died whilst giving birth to Carsten, and as such, the Ernst children had grown up with no parents to guide them in life.  As they grew older, the bullying continued.  Neither his brothers nor his sisters shared the same thirst for knowledge that Carsten did.  And so he became like an outcast amongst his own family.

As they entered adulthood, Carsten watched from afar as the behaviour of his siblings worsened.  Behind closed doors he’d spied on them as they began to engage in drunken bouts of rampant incest and sprees of self-destructive drug abuse.

However, whilst the Ernst’s hosted party after party - a constant stream of money paying for a frivolous lifestyle of drunken debauchery - Carsten instead stuck his head in his books, studying medicine for a future of his own making.

But after a while he’d become convinced his sister was plotting to steal the family fortune.  It was enough to make Carsten decide to follow them.  To find out if there was any substance in his fears.  And that’s when he’d witnessed the séance and his whole world changed.

For a man of science, seeing the foundations of the rational world dissolve away in the blink of an eye was enough to put his whole belief system in turmoil.  Suddenly nothing made sense.  He’d witnessed something more powerful, more incredible, and more unfathomable than any book of science could unveil.

Carsten knew he had to know more.  It that moment, he realised he would stop at nothing to learn the truths about the unseeing world.  And so he would embark on a path that would lead him deeper and deeper into the abyss of darkness.

There are books out there that tell of unearthly practices.  Ancient acts that can call upon powers and forces beyond the realms of Carsten’s rational world.  With his loyal carriage driver by his side, Carsten Ernst plans to locate the books he needs, to search out the knowledge that has been hidden from man’s eyes for so long.  His obsession will see him pulling apart the remaining scraps of his malignant family.  And his addiction to the quest will put him in harm’s way every step of the way.

But one day the knowledge will be his.  He will do whatever it takes to get his hands on The Immortal Body.  And from that book, on to La Canzone del Dio di Morte… The Song Of The Death God…

DLS Review:
If there’s one man who knows how to write dark, twisted, Lovercraftian style cosmic horror that casts you into a pitch black void of hopeless despair – then it’s William Holloway.  In the first instalment to ‘The Singularity Cycle’ we saw some of the most feverishly bleak cosmic horror that’s perhaps ever been penned.  Here we return to the very same cosmic lore, the same horrifyingly rotten and corrupted world, but at a time before the necromancer Liche became the imposing dark power that we witnessed within ‘The Immortal Body’ (2012).

Indeed, for this second instalment Holloway takes us back to the early nineteenth century, a sort of opium hazed Toulouse-Lautrec era where we get to see how the necromancer Liche came to be.  As such, instead of being a direct continuation from ‘The Immortal Body’ (2012), what we have with ‘Song Of The Death God’ is more akin to a prequel that carefully paints the elaborately twisted backstory which will eventually come to fruition in ‘The Immortal Body’ (2012).

As you start reading the book, very early on the impression that you’re embarking upon something of a much grander scale begins to settle in.  The attention to detail and undeniable emphasis on establishing the characters, their family history and the whole history behind Carsten Ernst, paints a picture of intricacy and loving complexity.  Holloway has clearly put his heart and soul into this book.  You can imagine the various elements at play consuming Holloway’s every waking hour as he composes his complexly interwoven tale.  An obsessive madness birthing more insanity of its own.

Of course atmosphere is very important with this type of fiction.  Setting the scene.  Creating the right tone for the period its set within.  All those intricate details are so incredibly important.  A keen eye for the subtle points you would never think of that are quietly slipped in.  It’s these details that are what make the tale seem that much realer.   They work to validate the time in which the story’s set.  Makes everything feel that much more realistic with a believable richness.

There’s a very pronounced structure to this second instalment.  Each page feels like it’s purposefully heading somewhere.  Every word uttered and location visited has a definite bearing on the direction of the tale.  Nothing is merely for padding.  Yes, creating the right atmosphere is important, but Holloway seems to somehow have done this as a by-product of the storytelling, letting it fall on our laps naturally as he directs his tale closer and closer towards the eventual end goal.

That said, the book does read like a fundamental stepping stone for a fuller, more involved story at play.  Many threads are left open, whole segments of the book feel only partly explored.  You know there’s more to come – a greater understanding of the complex cosmos that’s being gradually, painstakingly unveiled - but for now Holloway’s holding his tongue until all the necessary pieces have been played out in his chosen order.

Nevertheless, the real strength in the novel undeniably lies with the way Holloway delivers his creeping, taunting horror.  Through the laudanum haze, there’s an unending gloom to the tale that feels near impossible to penetrate, or step away from.  Everything feels tainted.  The air tastes stagnant.  There’s a lingering mug of sepia to everything.  A musty smell that seems to waft from the very pages.  And accompanying this dirt and grime is the ever-present sense of each characters’ wavering sanity.  A ferocious madness that pumps through the lifeblood of the tale; engulfing each moment and pulling you, the reader, deeper and deeper into the author’s hopeless abyss.

The characters themselves are almost unanimously dislikeable.  In fact, there’s a very noticeable lack of any sort of protagonist within the tale.  Who do you side with?  Who can you sympathise with?  There are little to no such easy-to-reach lifelines pulling you out of the murky waters.  Instead, the characters coerce you along via their self-involved nihilistic worlds, none of which allow you feel even remotely connected with their plight.  Instead it’s almost akin to watching quite voyeuristically, as Carsten Ernst, the man that would one day become Liche, systematically tears apart the unbelievably dysfunctional family he calls his own, ripping to shreds their world, along with anyone else that happens onto his path.

There are a lot of elements at play in the tale.  Always so many different threads, interweaving and turning their own interlinking cogs.  It returns you to that unshakeable sense that everything that transpires has a greater purpose.  That every detail is intrinsically involved with the progression of the greater story’s eventual goal.  But fathoming what’s evolving, what’s unravelling and edging ever closer, always seems just a breath too far away.

Ultimately what you get with ‘Song Of The Death God’ is a tale drenched in self-destructive obsession that gradually penetrates your pores, saturating you with the stench of an ancient horror that seems to linger in every word.  There’s madness and hopeless abandonment of all that is human.  Ritual and wholly unnatural rites are given the frontseat to the horror.  The beasts of the cosmic chaos that were previously glimpsed stay hidden in the shadows, but their influence is still ever present.  What we get instead is a slow corruption of the soul.  A teasing and rearing away of innocence through an irrepressible obsession.  A dwindling light that is slowly, purposefully, and irreversibly devoured by a chaotic, maddening darkness.

The novel runs for a total of 343 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Singularity Cycle’ instalments:

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