I Am The New God by Nicole Cushing

I Am The New God

This is a DarkFuse novella by Nicole Cushing, who found acclaim with her previous book, Children of No One. I haven’t read it yet, but do have it on my shelf. I Am The New God is about a college student, Greg Bryce, who out of the blue begins to receive letters from a person known as the hierophant. These letters state that Greg is the titular new god and that he will replace the current Christian God. After receiving a few of these letters, as a distraction from an uncomfortable college life, he writes back and engages the hierophant.

Greg is homophobic, refers to his disabled little brother as retarded, and is all-around unlikable so he doesn’t garner much sympathy. Then again, the author doesn’t really ask for any on his behalf. Cushing does a nice job conveying Greg’s feelings of being an outsider and being different, although having pretty girls laughing at him on the beach is a little cliché. Greg seems to go from mild amusement at receiving the letters to buying fully into the idea that he is a god in the blink of an eye. Watching him go from curious to screaming at God, completely mad, and planning to vanquish him is a bit hard to swallow. We learn he has Christian fundamentalist parents so rejecting them and what they stand for might help to explain Greg’s behavior, but it still didn’t seem to be a natural progression. There are questions over Greg’s history of mental illness and medication. It seems that going off his meds is the bridge to his acceptance of the idea that he is becoming a god. It’s not explicit. The potential of using mental illness as a reason for his belief, and then casting the mentally ill in such a negative light, almost as a symptom of evil, doesn’t sit well with me. I might be looking too much into it, but it’s an uncomfortable idea, and although events further in the book provide more explanation, it still felt like a cold plot device.

The hierophant is a far more interesting character, a defrocked minister, who believed he was given the divine task of assisting the new god after talking with a vision of John the Baptist. It would have been good to have more of the focus on him and his backstory. He is more sympathetic than Greg, selfless to Greg’s selfishness. The hierophant has to give the new god seven tasks one at a time that must be completed before he becomes a deity. The first of these is to create a life. It was fascinating seeing his creation, the amusing Hop-frog, sentient in his eyes, interacting with the normal world. In fact, Greg’s discussions of reality were the most imaginative and captivating parts of the book. The destruction of the Hop-frog brought some quite unexpected and graphic violence to the transgressor, his college roommate, Japanese exchange student Arihiro, who becomes his first unwilling disciple. This set Greg’s descent or rather “ascent,” for the rest of the book.

The novella has a very strong conclusion, and the story takes a turn which I really enjoyed. Overall I Am the New God is an unusual but captivating novella. Providing a fresh storyline that keeps away from the traditional, expected tropes of the genre is refreshing. It’s definitely worth a read.

7/10

Book Cover Blurb:

Only a few in the world know the real truth about what happened more than two decades ago. While religions continue to covet their chosen deities, the gods we once worshipped were destroyed in the fall of 1989.

In their place, a troubled teenager named Greg Bryce assumed control–and he’s been presiding over and judging humanity ever since.

This is the tale of what happened before the world as we knew it came to an end, how Greg was driven by truth and lies, divinity and insanity, punishment and mercy, resurrection and murder, to assume his rightful place as The New God.

House of Skin by Tim Curran

House of Skin by Tim CurranTim Curran’s ascent to the top of the horror genre continues with his latest offering, House of Skin. Eddy Zero never knew his father, Dr. William Zero, except for what he read in newspaper clippings. Dr. Zero, aka Dr. Blood-and-Bones, disappeared after becoming a legendary serial killer. Eddy believes that the best way to find him is to emulate him – become him. As Eddy seeks his father, there is also someone who seeks Eddy. Pyschiatrist Lisa Lochmere knows the danger that Eddy poses, and so she tracks him. She is eager to make her name in her field by writing a book about this extraordinary case. At least that is what she tries to convince herself is her motive.

The book flashes back to the rise of William Zero and his associates, Grimes and Stadtler. First they share in the more extreme pleasures of the flesh. Then they escalate to using their victims to understand the human mind pushed to its limits. Back in the present day Eddy and his associate, Spider, begin their journey, weaving their murderous way through the seedy streets of San Francisco.

This book has something for everyone, from demons to returning undead, serial killing, and torture. It’s a smorgasboard of dark delights.  This is brutal and vivid writing, and definitely not for the squeamish. Flesh is cut and splayed, sliced and diced, and plenty of blood is spilled. While the gore is powerful, the characterizations are similarly strong. The main players, Lisa and Eddy, have a complex relationship, but even more minor characters such as the detective, Fenn, and reluctant witness Gulliver, are still well developed.  Gulliver was a very entertaining character, as was the deranged lover and sometimes partner of Eddy, Cherry Hill.

The theme of secret gateways to places beyond the known brought to mind Clive Barker’s works. While the puzzle box opened the doorway to Barker’s hell, the artistry of flesh is Dr. Zero’s key to the Territories – a place for sadists beyond our realm, where entrance must be earned. Both places’ inhabitants share the delight of sweet suffering. These comparisons are a compliment though, and this book is in no way derivative of Barker. Another strong theme is obsession, played out in Eddy’s need to find his father, his and Spider’s fanatical pursuit of entrance into the Territories, Lochmere’s obsession with Eddy, and Cherry’s desire for Eddy. Such obsession rarely brings a positive outcome.

Curran weaves a masterful story, sewing the lives of the different characters together perfectly, like sutures over razored skin. There are plenty of twists that you won’t see coming and it is such a joy as a reader when predictability goes out the window. It all comes together for a suitably climatic finale. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.

9/10

Book Cover Blurb:

William Zero, a.k.a. Dr. Blood-and-Bones. One of the most infamous butchers in U.S. history, a serial killer who skinned and dissected his victims. He killed a dozen people and then vanished without a trace. Now his deranged son, Eddy, is searching for him. He believes his father escaped into an alternate reality and the only way to follow him is by recreating his crimes and opening the doorway to Hell.

And as Eddy hunts his father, he is hunted. Dr. Lisa Lochmere, a psychiatrist is hot on his trail, motivated by sexual obsessions she can’t even begin to understand. When she was a teenager she had an affair with an older man that turned into brutal abuse. Years later, she discovered her lover was none other than William Zero. And ever since, despite herself, she has had a certain sexual compulsion concerning him. A compulsion that only grew when Eddy was placed under her care at an asylum, only to be released by her superiors prematurely.

Now she has tracked Eddy to San Francisco—the scene of his father’s crimes. She intends to find him, telling herself it’s for his own good and a book she wants to write, but in reality the reasons are much more personal. She has enlisted the help of James Fenn, a homicide detective, who wants to help her, but in reality has fallen in love with her, a woman who can know no love, only obsession.

As Eddy kills and kills again and Fenn falls deeper in love with her, Lisa is drawn to the house where Zero dispatched his victims, believing it to be the place where Eddy is most likely to go. But it isn’t Eddy she finds there, but something far worse. Nothing—and no one—is what they seem in the House of Skin.