Lesath by A.M. Kherbash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
*Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Netgalley.
Lesath by A.M. Kherbash is taut, eerie, and disconcerting. It’s a modern creature feature of a book, which embraces tropes of Gothic literature, psychological horror and X-files style secrets to create a surreal journey through… What? A prison? An asylum? A mad scientist’s laboratory? All three? It never becomes entirely clear.
Indeed, not a whole lot does become entirely clear. The protagonist, Greg, an aimless man living from his car apparently decides to investigate a mysterious old manor in the woods for his podcast. He ends up trapped inside and the only explanation he’s given, that he is identical to an escaped inmate, might actually be true… Or it might be a delusion?
Things, of course, take a dark turn very quickly. People die. “Things” come out of ducts. More people die. And so it goes…
Many times reading this book, I was reminded of the greasy, oddly quiet scenery of horror games like Psycho-break or The most recent Resident Evil. Things are clearly bad. There is books on the walls, inexplicable mild and black ichor. You know something is coming. But lots of the scenes are just walking around checking doors and drawers.
This is my first criticism of the novel. There is a lot of compelling grotesquery and tension, but far too much of the book is taken up by sudden scenes of nothing much. The nature of the story, I think, is such that the reader is supposed to be confused by unexpected scene changes, as a way to emphasize the precarious nature of the protagonist’s mental state. But often times, the breaks don’t actually lead anywhere, and structurally seem to lose effect after the meeting of the book.
My other, and main criticism, is that a lot of the language used in the book simply didn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean. The author send to be struggling for an elevated register to evoke the Gothic tradition. The problems with this are twofold: first, sure this is a modern setting, the dialog is modern, and the clash between the elevated narrative and modern dialog is so great as to be almost comical. The second is that the register becomes so high that I dear many readers, and the author as well, don’t be really understand the words.
Phrases like “after observing the prevalent silence…” Or “he expressed a contented sigh” or the extremely frequent use of “discern” (13 times in 159 pages!) Feel like thesaurus abuse, and indeed incorrect usage at times.
Which is not to say that the writing is poor, it isn’t. It’s often well phrased and interesting. The dialog can be snappy and fun, too. But it can also be a bit messy and overwrought. I think a bit of time with a developmental editor could make the creepy story at the core of this novel shine.
I burned though it because I did want to see what happened, and the ending was fittingly unsettling and slightly confusing. I did enjoy the book, and appreciate the chance to read it given by the author, A.M. Kherbash.
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Lesath by A.M. Kherbash