I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn
Published by JournalStone on Feb 26 2021
Genres: Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Supernatural
Format: ARC, eBook
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While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.
But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.
Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.
Shelter for the Damned spins a tale of teenage rage and angst mirrored with the events occurring in the shack. Set the scene…A shack in the middle of a field, it has an exorable pull to the protagonist, Mark. It almost calls to him like a voice in the wind, a siren call. Thorn has a cutthroat ability to reel you in, a writing style so sharp and penetrating that it threatens to tear you open, layer by layer. It is a brutal examination of the emotions and turmoil that teenagers battle with.
Shelter for the Damned felt like the lovechild of Barker and King. I’m not a huge fan of comparisons but it screamed to me. The artistic and almost poetic narrative created a chasm that I couldn’t help staring down at, like the shelter it pulled me in and swallowed me whole – I was helpless to fight it. Thorn takes an almost harmless object and displays just how splitting it wide open will release the wretchedness of human nature. Although I’ve made a massive comparison, I believe that Thorn had the edge with his originality and cunning. I enjoyed the development of Mark although it was at times ghastly.
If I were to sum up Shelter for the Damned – it spirals like an avalanche. The story gains traction and if you don’t have your wits about you – you will also end up buried.
The story features the main protagonist, Mark and his two friends, Scott and Adam. Whilst out pissing about they come across a shack that they haven’t noticed before. After much argument and discourse they decide it would be the perfect place to smoke cigarettes. Instantly you get the suggestion that the shack isn’t everything it pertains to be. Mark feels an invisible pull to it, its not long before he wants to go again. He tries to convince his friends who are understandably unwilling. He sneaks away again and decides that he doesn’t want to share it with his friends now…it is his. Mark appears to have psychological connection with the shack.
Mark is an exceedingly difficult character to connect with, he fights and prods at people, his friends included, until they snap. He reminds me of a fuse just simmering away under the surface, it doesn’t take much for him to explode. A fractious relationship with his father, which, no mistaking is abusive. He also seems to have an anger problem and prefers to deal out punishment by means of pain and gaslighting. Its not an excuse for Mark’s behaviour but there are means to suggest he’s learnt by example. He’s a boy that feels no-one understands him and doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin – hasn’t everyone felt like that at some point.
The events that take place in the shack are haunting and it mirrors just how quickly things spiral out of control for Mark. He becomes increasingly violent. I wondered if the shack was more resemblant of his mind – his fantasies of violence and aggression.
Shelter for the Damned is an absorbing read with a creeping sense of unease. Brutal and relentless.
ABOUT MIKE THORN
His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, The Seventh Row, Bright Lights Film Journal and Vague Visages.
He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.