*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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.
Creature gave me chills, shivers, goosebumps and I might have held my breath a few times too. There are monsters without and monsters within, and it’s not clear which are the scarier!
It was clear, even before the author’s afterword, that Hunter Shea has deeply personal experience of living with someone who suffers from chronic illness, as no amount of research can provide the depth of understanding and emotion on display here. Dark despair, coping humour and stubbornly clinging hope are all uncompromisingly laid bare. As a reader with my own chronic illness I had to put the book down a few times to collect myself before continuing, especially for moments like Kate’s cleaning spree or when she slept through eagerly anticipated plans.
These were the only points that I was able to put the book down however, as Shea has created a slow-creeping story that first thoroughly immerses you in the repetitive, blunt horror of a life lived in pain, before gradually layering in more traditional horror tropes (shadows, noises in the night, slaughtered wildlife). The tension ratchets imperceptibly until you find yourself jumping at noises in your own house! Then the climax explodes into action, violence and heroics.
On that note, I should warn that this is not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. Whilst there is plenty of psychological horror, there are also bursts of visceral gore and cracking bones, attributable to both the titular ‘Creature’ and Kate’s chronic illness!
The ending was poised between apocalyptic violence and a tentative hope for the future. This balance was also found throughout the novel as the author explored every aspect of his character’s struggles: pain and exhaustion, anger and frustration, determination and tenderness, love and understanding. This openness made the author’s personal afterword both illuminating and deeply moving.
My only minor quibble was that I was slightly disappointed by the exploration of the climactic reveal. I don’t want to spoil any plot points, so all I can say is that I really loved the explanation at the heart of the whole storyline, but felt that the reveal was so fast-paced and action-packed that this aspect was not as thoroughly explored as I personally would have liked. After such an intimate build-up, the ending felt a little abrupt without a bit more exposition.
I would tentatively recommend to people living with chronic illness, either in themself or a loved one. I say tentatively because of course one depicted experience won’t reflect the gamut of each individual struggle, and the author does not shy away from his own darkness so some may find it a little too raw a read. This was not the case for me. I found the exploration of a little-talked-about facet of life absolutely riveting and was thrilled to see a ‘spoonie’ (person with a chronic illness) feature as a main character in a fiction novel.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes their horror with a bit of everything: psychological, slasher gore, urban legends and creature-feature! Hunter Shea is clearly an aficionado of the chilling and disturbing and that permeates his writing. Turn the lights out if you dare, but don’t expect to sleep!
You’re getting a little carried away with yourself.
Things were far better to consider than people. Nothing was more terrifying than people gone bad, their brains rotting like spoiled meat in the sun. Of all the atrocities Kate had been witness to during her life, all of them had been perpetrated by people, not monsters. The boogeyman didn’t shoot up schools or drive trucks into crowds of people. Ghosts didn’t hijack planes or murder families in their sleep.
People, bad people, did all of those things.
Was one of those bad people out there now?
– Hunter Shea, Creature
Creature releases on Amazon on 6th September 2018, but you can preorder it right now!