The Atrocities

June 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

atrocitiesThe Atrocities by James C. Shipp


Shipp is a new writer for me. I heard some fantastic buzz surrounding this novella before its release, enough to convince me to give it a try. As I started it, I wondered if I had stumbled across a splatterpunk revival. Its opening sentence, after all, is “Turn left at the screaming woman with the collapsing face”, followed by “turn right at the woman sliced into twelve pieces”. These are the titular atrocities, statues based on Biblical stories hidden throughout a hedge maze that must be traversed before reaching Stockton House.

The house is where the main character arrives to work as a governess instructing the owners’ daughter. The only problem with that is the daughter is dead, and only the mother seems able to see her. The governess is a no-nonsense type, ready to quit over the impossibility of her task, but her curiosity and willingness to help override her feeling of futility, and she strives to unravel the mystery of the house.

Shipp is a promising writer. His imagery is vivid and shocking, but it’s not necessarily disturbing, partly because it doesn’t linger. There are definitely memorable bits and pieces of the story, but the scenes that feel like they’re supposed to be the disturbing ones don’t have much effect beyond that first quesy feeling. In a way, it reminds me a bit of splatterpunk, but only in the same way that Joe Lansdale is sometimes shoehorned into that genre: There’s just something about their writing style that’s hyper-descriptive but not always disturbing.

The ending of The Atrocities left me wanting more (almost literally; it felt like the story needed more time to bounce back from its sudden ending and give us more detail on how it wrapped up), but the prose and the setup were effective enough to get my attention. I didn’t immediately add Shipp’s other works to my to-read pile, but he’s definitely a writer now on my radar.

Started: April 22, 2018
Finished: April 22, 2018

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