After reading Newman's Anno Dracula on several occasions, when the chance to read and review a publisher's copy came up, I jumped at the chance. However, after reading it, I'm almost at a loss as to how to approach it in review. So, let's try this:
The Good: Newman has a wonderful style and is to my mind one of the foremost writers of the horror genre. He takes the time to fully develop his characters, and make you truly want to root for them in the face of whatever horrific situation he's devised. His thought process is truly twisted, so don't expect your "run of the mill" horror novel. There were moments while reading this novel that I was either horrified, or grossed out, which is generally the intent of horror. The climax of the novel also makes up for what comes next.
The Bad: This is a 300 page novel packed into a 643 page shell. Newman is a master of universe building, but spends so much time putting the pieces in place, it holds back the novel. It took me six months to read this novel. Every time I got fed up and said, "where the hell is this going," I'd put the novel down and read something else until I was ready to attempt it again. There's also some subtle irony in that we don't meet Anthony Jago, beloved leader of the Agapemone cult (and whose name graces the cover) until almost halfway through the novel. There's never really any development of his character, except through brief moments from his past, and even then they're told from the point of view of those around him. We never really get an explanation of what makes this God on earth tick.
The Ugly: There are some truly disgusting moments in this novel, so be forewarned. On the other hand, if you love a good gross out, then this is the book for you--if you're willing to invest the time. For me, I think I'll go re-read Anno Dracula.