First published back in June of 2015, ‘Upon Waking’ was the third offering from British horror author J.R. Park.

DLS Synopsis:
As he woke up in that darkened room of horrors, every moment felt like a never-ending slice of infinite oblivion for Chris.  His arms were securely strapped to the wall.  He felt the blood continue to spill from the huge gash torn across his stomach.  And as he hung there, the same questions kept reverberating around his mind.  Why was he here?  Why was this happening to him?

Benjamin Peter’s wakes in a neatly kept bedroom, with no recollection of how he got there or where the hell he is.  His fingers explore the bandage taped to his tender head.  Something has clearly happened to him.  He’s been injured.  But someone’s looked after him.

Unbeknown to the two young men, they have something in common.  What led them to be where they now are is what links them together.  They are not the only ones to have this happen to them.  They certainly won’t be the last.  Their world is about to be turned into a living nightmare.

They were after love.  Seeking a little romance.  But what they got instead was hell.

Waking up in an unknown room with no memory of how you got there is scary enough.  But when the true horror of the situation comes crashing down on you, then the nightmare truly begins…

DLS Review:
It’s pretty damn difficult to provide a synopsis for this novel without giving too much away.  In fact, the brief synopsis above probably contains a small spoiler or two.  However, to cut a path through the purposeful fog of confusion would almost certainly ruin one of the key aspects of the tale.  After all, the way in which it has been constructed is also at the very core of its whole premise - the horror of waking with complete disorientation and an unnerving sense of foreboding.

To achieve this Park (quite cunningly) delivers the first third or so of his tale through a cloud of confusion.  Chapter by chapter you’re shown small snippets from a handful of characters’ lives, with seemingly no link connecting them to each other or to indeed any discernible idea of what’s going on.

The approach is quite purposeful.  Over and over again you’re thrust into a state of disorientation and confusion – mirroring that of the very characters you’re reading about.  As they wake, feeling uneasy and worryingly disorientated, as they try to get to grips with their surroundings, so you as the reader go through the exact same motions.  And hats off to the author – he’s pulled it off perfectly.

So okay, it’s all a bit disorientating and there’s a very thick fog of confusion to make your way through, but what’s Park got in store for us on the other side?  Well, without wanting to ruin the surprise (so I’ll keep it relatively vague), in a nutshell expect to be bombarded with some of the most visceral and disturbing horror you’re likely to have come across in a while.  Akin to Kit Power’s gut-churning novella ‘Lifeline’ (2014), once the veil of confusion is lifted the perverse brutality and levels of barbaric violence that Park unleashes are pretty much off the scale.

This is a dark and twisted serial killer thriller with a thick helping of splatterpunk stirred in.  It’s Jack Ketchum meets Kit Power meets Shaun Hutson.  Prepare to be gut punched by utterly over-the-top graphic violence time and time and time again.  Torture, deviant sexual torment, rape, abduction, mutilation and murder are the course of the day from here on in.  Oh yes – in this novel Park doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever when it comes to the nasty side of things.

Like with his previous tales, characterisation is of the Guy N Smith school of writing; with Park spending time settling into the life of a character, purely to see them come to a nasty end in a matter of pages.  Indeed, you can never tell who’s going to survive and who’s next on the chopping list.  And together with the hard-hitting violence and blood-drenched splatter, it’s also the sheer unpredictability in the tale that really makes it work so damn well.  Anyone can die at any point.  What’s behind the next door is completely unpredictable.  And by god does it create some teeth-grinding suspense.

This is very possibly Park’s most impactful and impressive offering to date.  Once you start reading it then you’ll find yourself trapped in its pages.  The horror is explosive and stomach-churning, but it’s pretty much impossible to stop reading it.

An absolute masterclass in gut-wrenchingly violent horror.  Sleep easy tonight everyone…

The novel runs for a total of 142 pages.

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