I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.CREATURE by Hunter Shea
Series: Fiction Without Frontiers
Published by Flame Tree Press on September 6, 2018
Genres: Creature Feature, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Psychological Horror, Suspense, Thriller
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The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew's surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It's beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.
But they are not alone.
Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Just like her body, Kate's cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.
The FLAME TREE PRESS fiction imprint from Flame Tree Publishing brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
CREATURE, by Hunter Shea, is–in my opinion–his strongest, most focused, “heaviest” (in terms of theme), and character-driven novel to date. This is a novel that incorporates many sub-genres of horror: psychological, human suffering, suspense, visceral, supernatural, and fear-inducing, among many others. If you’re like myself and normally have a couple of books going at all times, you’ll soon discover that this is simply not a book that can be read “lightly”. CREATURE is a tale that demands your undivided attention and focus at all times.
We start with a couple, Kate and Andrew Woodson, who have the misfortune of Kate living with a host of autoimmune diseases, including Lupus and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. While this obviously makes Kate’s physical existence a challenge in and of itself, its affect on Andrew is no less potent.
“She’d forgotten what it was like to wake up and not be in agony . . . “
The strength of their union, their love and dependance on one another is the backbone of this story. Through their everyday thoughts and actions, the reader is “shown” just how close Kate and Andrew are, without the need for obvious statements. We can feel them–the pain and frustration that each deals with in their own ways.
“. . . what they had survived made them different from most people . . . “
I cannot stress enough how REAL these two characters are to me. I feel like they are people I actually know in life, such is the power of Shea’s words.
“. . . Her body might be weak, but her will could break a football lineman in half . . . “
Deciding that they need a break form everyday life, Andrew arranges for them to take the summer off, and vacation at a remote lakeside cottage in Maine. Along with Kate’s constant companion, an older beagle named Buttons, they set out.
“. . . she waved goodbye to their house, a house that doubled as a hospital and prison . . . “
While the main focus overall is on the characterization, once they reach Maine, the atmosphere comes more prominently into play, as well. The beauty of this quaint cottage nestled in the woods, with a gorgeous lake beyond, and only a few “neighbors”–too far away to be seen–is an excellent contrast to the pain raging throughout Kate’s weakened body.
“Promise me we can stay here forever?”
Of course, neither could have predicted that something . . . else . . . might be inhabiting those very same woods.
While Kate’s battles with her own body are always present, there are so many other intrusions that begin to enter into their world–some subtle, some less so. This is where Shea showcases just how “real” he can make his novels.
“. . . the woods were nothing but shadows, and the only things that didn’t belong were themselves.”
In addition to the spectacular characterization, he begins to build up the apprehension and unease for each in a myriad of ways. Yet all of it rings true for the reader. Some of the most horrific discoveries are things they choose to keep to themselves, for reasons that make complete sense to us, as it concerns each personality.
“How could she be a part of their lives when she couldn’t even partake of her own?”
Some are purposely left ambiguous so that even the reader wants to question “Is this real”? Other things are brought to light in such a brutal manor that it is impossible to deny something is amiss.
“. . . her dream lake cottage. Yet here she was . . . trapped in more ways than one . . . “
This is what a great horror novel is all about. Shea is able to bring out those feelings of despair and fear that we have all experienced to some extent, making these scenes ring so true in our minds. Once our undivided attention has been captured, even more problems and terror begin to bombard us at every turn.
“He’s my husband . . . If anyone’s going to stab him repeatedly, it should be me . . . “
No matter how “improbable” the scene, at this stage our minds are open to any and every possibility out there. In addition to the internal battles, the external threat and carnage heat things up to an explosive level.
“. . . when there was nothing left to lose, there was no reason to hold back . . . “
Overall, a remarkable, unforgettable novel in so many ways! The raw emotion of the characters, the physical problems both within and without the cottage, and the ultimate questions of “what, why, and how”, will leave you hanging on every written word. As I stated in the beginning, this is not a “light” story, but it is one that will reel you in so that you can practically feel every moment of it right up until the final, unpredictable, end. Without question, this is one of my top reads of the year.