Published by JournalStone on May 12, 2017
Genres: Creature Feature, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Psychological Horror, Suspense, Thriller
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"The story is exciting, and terrifically scary." -- The New York Times
"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good." --Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box
When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers - along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend - decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.
Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.
As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.
SACCULINA is the first book that I’ve read by Philip Fracassi, but it certainly won’t be the last! The premise of this novella is simple enough. After Jack Lowell is released from prision, his father Henry, brother Jim, and best friend Chris Hanson, decide to do something to celebrate his return.
Henry rents out a small boat for them to go on a fishing expedition.
“Ocean ain’t never safe . . . “
Parts of the story showed an attempt that the younger men made at a light-hearted reunion, but since the untimely death of Henry Lowell’s wife, Jack and Jim noticed the physical and mental decline in their father, despite his best efforts of levity.
“. . . Sadness and loss did that to a man . . . Took from the inside out, so that by the time you saw the results it was too late to do anything about it . . . “
Once underway on the shipping vessel piloted by “Captain Don”, the atmosphere begins to immediately become oppressive. Where we’d expect the ocean and sea air to give off a feeling of “freedom”–especially for Jack–instead an eerie premonition begins to build among the passengers, for no discernible reason.
“. . . couldn’t shake the sudden feeling that they were surrounded, in a menacing way . . . by endless water and unknown creatures . . . “
The characterization in this novella was top notch, I felt, where it mattered the most. I got the feeling that I truly understood this family, and everything they’d gone through. Their attempt at celebrating being together once again was bittersweet, as we can sense innately just how much they’ve already lost.
“. . . Life was a merciless thief with a black heart, and you hoped it passed you by when scouting for its next victim . . . “
The voyage goes by at a steady pace, the uneasiness–and then terror–mounting inexorably as each new development occurs. The emotional attachment I had developed for this group never once wavered as its course continued.
“. . . we fear the incomprehensible, we fear other life . . . always afraid of what might come next in the chain . . . “
Fracassi does an exceptional job at grabbing the readers’ attention right from the start. Not only does he sustain this feeling, but somehow manages to increase our mental involvement throughout its entirety. Honestly, this is a novella you will want to read in a single sitting, as to put it down feels like “abandoning” this small, but emotionally vibrant crew.
The prose here alternates between periods of “narrating the events” and profound, thought-provoking comments that seep into your brain and make so much “sense” that you wonder if the thoughts had been there all along, just without the benefit of this soulful articulation.
“The hardest part of losing someone . . . It’s not the losing that hurt me the most . . . It was the damned going on.”
Overall, a very impressive introduction to a new-to-me author, and one whose work I will immediately be looking up for more. This novella contained everything I could have asked for in a great read: a riveting tale, realistic characters that you feel for, an atmosphere that progressively intensifies–keeping you glued to the pages–and a creepy new menace that easily sends chills down your spine.