on September 23, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Lovecraftian, Mystery, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Suspense, Thriller
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When Flynn was sixteen, he was a new kid in a new school. At first, he was ignored. Then he was bullied, tormented, and beaten. Chad Reese offered him a way out. He introduced him to Toddy and Bones. They made Flynn's enemies their own. Before long, he was the most popular kid at school. But there was a price. When he wouldn't pay it, they took something he loved. Now, thirty years later, Flynn is rich and successful. Everything he touches seems to turn into gold. Until he comes back home to discover that the payment for living the good life has been long overdue.
SYMBIOSIS, by Tim Curran, is a novel of supernatural, psychological, and physical horror, with elements of Lovecraftian overtones, as well. This novel flowed very well, in my opinion, with very few moments of “lagging” between the action. Despite the carnage and more overt scenes of horror, I found this book to be mentally all-consuming, as there was never a moment where I wasn’t wondering about the origins and nature of the main antagonists.
Flynn Connors is a teenager forced to move from a high school–where he had a good deal of popularity–to a new place in a small town, due to his Father’s job transfer. To say that things changed drastically in Flynn’s life would be the understatement of the century.
“. . . Take equal parts stupidity, incompetence, and self-doubt, shake it up and down . . . and what you poured out . . . was the new, inept, and socially unacceptable Flynn Connors . . .”
After enduring weeks of debilitating beatings and bullying–mainly at the hands of two school jocks–Flynn is approached by a classmate named Chad. Chad hints that when Flynn gets tired of this treatment, he could meet some friends of his . . . friends that will always look out for Flynn’s welfare and “take care” of his enemies. The only hesitation Flynn had was that his other classmates seemed to almost fear Chad.
“. . . things have a way of happening to his enemies . . . “
When Flynn has finally had enough, he agrees to meet Chad’s “friends”, Toddy and Bones. From that day on, everything seems to go in Flynn’s favor.
However, there’s always a hidden price: “. . . Some accounts just had to be settled . . . “
“. . . certain things set into action cannot be recalled and certain forces once called up cannot be put down . . . “
Curran weaves this spellbinding tale with his unique style and unparalleled imagination. Who wouldn’t want exceedingly good luck to be with them at all times? Yet, what price is too much to pay?
“Luck isn’t real . . . It’s just a word people use to frame coincidence or make sense of it . . . “
While we get a concrete feel for the characters of Flynn and Chad, Curran gives us only so much information as to the “driving force” behind Toddy and Bones. In their case, however, there is something enigmatic and merely “implied”, that leaves the reader with merely an unsettling fear, and more questions than answers regarding the mysterious duo.
“. . . You make a sacrifice so the dark gods will favor you.”
Eventually, Flynn is moved out of the area, yet there are constant reminders in his uncannily good fortunes, that every account must eventually be paid.
The atmospheric tension that underlies this novel is particularly potent due to it’s “ambiguous” nature. While the readers can easily guess at some of the discrepancies between Toddy and Bones verses Flynn and even Chad–because of the fact that the most deeply troubling and baffling aspects are only given in vague terms and the half-mad ramblings of nightmare-like recollections, the two “forces” and their “games” have a much higher fear inducing impact. Were Curran to simply “tell” us about their nature, the story would lose much of its inherent horror.
After all, fear of the unknown is much worse than the terrors we can put a label on.
“. . . things can happen in October. Perfectly awful things.”
Towards the end, while Flynn only has the vaguest notion of what he is truly up against–once he inexplicably ends up back in the small town he though he’d left behind forever–he turns towards the one left behind “friend” who got him ensnared in Toddy and Bones’ web: Chad.
“. . . You don’t blame a shark for eating someone in the ocean; but you do blame the guy who throws someone overboard for it.”
I found this novel to be full of suspense, horror, and many psychological aspects that drew me in even deeper into the storyline. In my opinion, it is the stories that force a reader to “think”, and mentally reevaluate what they’ve read, that really make a tale STAY with you. This is the magic Curran is capable of. He hits a great balance of reality verses supernatural in this book, and leaves the readers contemplating the uneasy alignment of the two.
“. . . sometimes it was better to laugh than to scream.”
SYMBIOSIS is a novel that I highly recommend.