This is how you write a horror novel.
I’ve read a fair number of horror/dark fantasy novels recently, and it seems that I keep repeating the thought that writing and sustaining horror for the length of a novel is extremely difficult, and most of the books I’ve read haven’t quite succeeded in this task. Author Edward M. Erdelac doesn’t only succeed, but prevails. The structure of this book is remarkable and the horror builds all the way through the book.
Andersonville is set primarily in the notorious prisoner of war camp of the American Civil War. It features historical characters who were actually associated with Andersonville, such as Henry Wirz. The story begins with a Negro soldier, Barclay Lourdes, seemingly trying to find his way IN to Andersonville. Once inside, he is punished (whipped) for taking another soldier’s identity and then he begins to explore the camp. Factions and lawlessness are rife inside, but Barclay seems intent on finding something in particular. What he discovers is huge and beyond the power of ordinary men.
Author Erdelac masterfully crafts this book.
First of all, there’s the mystery to what is happening. Why is Barclay heading in to the worst prison camp in the country? What is he looking for? Who is he working for?
And then there is the horror. Erdelac starts with the horrors that humans inflict on other humans by sharing the horrendous acts inflicted on the prisoners in Andersonville. If you think that only the Germans treated their prisoners horribly in the concentration camps of World War II, then you should look up Andersonville on Wikipedia.
But as bad as this already is, Erdelac pushed the boundaries a bit and we begin to think that there’s maybe something deeper and darker happening. And just as we get to a point where we think we know what track this story is taking, Erdelac pulls us back and let’s us rest in the ‘ordinary’ horrors before springing the ultimate, Lovecraftian-styled horror upon us.
I fought myself in the first war there ever was. I was the slaughter of angels, Lourdes. Angels. How much more fragile you bloody little men are.
… (It) is empowered by human suffering. Its ferocity is commensurate to the sin it has fed upon.
I’ve read a few horror books recently, but most of those authors could learn a thing or two from Erdelac in how to set up a story. This really was a brilliant piece of work in craftsmanship. I liked the characters I was supposed to like. I didn’t like those who were evil. I was repulsed by the horrors of the camp and fearful of the other horrors that Erdelac created. And I was completely engaged from moment to moment. I wanted the horrors to end, but not the story.
I was not previously acquainted with the works of Edward M. Erdelac, but based on this book, I will be looking for his other works.
Looking for a good book? If you enjoy good horror fiction, then Andersonville by Edward M. Erdelac is a book you will WANT to read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Edward M. Erdelac
ebook, 272 pages