Written by: Jon Athan (2020)
An underground group of child snuff filmmakers are hunted down by the father of a missing girl.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I'm pretty new to the extreme horror literature world, so I'm not perhaps the best judge on exactly how extreme things are supposed to get. Suffice to say, if you have children, you definitely don't want it to get too much more extreme than this. Writer Jon Athan tells a tale for the digital age, where no children online is safe and the people who we think are our friends very well may be someone else in disguise. This fact itself is scary enough as a parent, the thought that anyone they could be talking to, in often the most benign places, may not just have bad intent but also have plenty of practice carrying out their intentions.
When Grace goes missing, her father takes vengeance into his own hands and starts hunting down sexual predators who may or may not have had something to do with his daughter's disappearance, and along the way stumbles across an organization far darker than he had ever feared it would be. And I'm talking dark. Think of those terrible videos you may come across on the internet, the cartel videos where nothing is off limits and seemingly every instrument of torture is used to its most chilling potential. Turning those tools on children is unconscionable, and no matter how many terrible things dad Andrew does to make these people pay for their crimes, you can't ever really blame him.
The scariest thing about this book is not the descriptions. Anybody can make anything up, from the fantastical to the farcical. It's the truth that these people are actually out there doing these things, recording these "hurtcore" videos in which children are the victims of horrific torture for the sexual gratification of rich people who would pay to watch it happen. It's a bleak topic for a novel, made ever bleaker by Athan's pull-no-punches prose and his twisted mind for details. Were it not for the horrific people suffering from Andrew's punishments, the book could easily veer into the "who is the monster?" trope that has felled many lofty attempts at subversion. Thankfully, Athan never makes us question who the bad guys are, even delivering the most gruesome child deaths at the beginning of the book so we never lose sight of who the real victims are.
As I said above, I'm new to the extreme horror lit game, so I can hardly tell you whether or not this one was above average in terms of written gore. What I can say is that there were moments in this book that got to me as much as any horror movie I've ever watched, moments that made me grit my teeth in shock and left me surprised I was able to continue reading. Thankfully, almost none of the sexual aspect of this horrifying reality makes it into Athan's script, a brilliant decision by the depraved writer that prevents us from losing too much investment in the book's satisfying conclusion. If you like extreme horror and don't mind reading about kids getting hurt, this is definitely one you want to put on your shelf.
Who this book is for: Extreme horror literature lovers, Gory horror fans, Childfree adults
Bottom line: Filled to the brim with the most gruesome gore imaginable and with some truly, amazingly creative deaths, writer Jon Athan has crafted a memorable work that's not for the squeamish. If you're a fan of internet-based horror and want to delve inside the truly dark side of reality, give this one a shot. Just take a shower afterwards.