‘Dark fiction’ – it’s a term that’s casually chucked around nowadays, but this novella from Dark Fuse really deserves the term. Both literally – it concerns children living in a maze which is completely dark – and thematically. It’s an original concept too, with an original bad guy (part James Bond villain, part Samuel Beckett’s even stranger brother). There’s nothing supernatural here, and the story seemed to me to be about the crazy justifications people make for doing something evil. (Not sure about the phonetic English accent of one character though!)
This is the story of an underground labyrinth in Nowhere, Indiana. Thomas Krieg has been abducting boys for ten years, and placing them in the labyrinth to try and survive, all in the name of art. Now a sadist wants to see the labyrinth, and Krieg's partner, an insane occultist known only as Mr NoOne thinks it is the perfect opportunity to call forth the grandest of the eldritch deities, The Great Dark Mouth.....
Since I have been reviewing books, there have been one or two that have stayed with me for a while after I have read them. This was one such book. Although not very long, there is much packed into its pages, without seeming to be overloaded. With a tiny cast and sparse locations, it is tight and well written VERY dark novella. The labyrinth itself was dark and claustrophobic, and some parts were difficult to read as they sent chills up my spine. Most of the four or five characters seemed to have a screw loose, and were quite evil in their own ways. That being said, for a debut novella, this shows great talent and I would love to see more by this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review.
Over the last few months I have been reading a lot of books published by DarkFuse, in main down to the fact that they have published new works from some of my favourite authors, folk like Gary McMahon, William Meikle, Jeff Mariotte and Tim Curran.
Nicole Cushing however is an author that I was not really all that familiar with, but two things, two very important things drew me to this exquisite novella. Firstly that cover, who could resist a cover like that, a giant bleak and foreboding labyrinth? And secondly the synopsis on Darfuse's site.
Sadism, nihilism, poverty, wealth, screams, whimpers, sanity and madness collide in Nowhere, Indiana. For Thomas Krieg, Nowhere is a miles-long, pitch-black underground maze in which he's imprisoned dozens of boys for the past ten years--all in the name of art. For two brothers, Nowhere is the only place they clearly remember living. A world unto itself, in which they must stay alert to stay alive. A world from which the only escape is death. But for an English occultist known only as Mr. No One, Nowhere is much more...and much less: the perfect place in which to perform a ritual to unleash the grandest of eldritch deities, the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.
Pretty darn enticing isn't it? These things are all well and good, but if the story doesn't stand on its own two feet these things are all by the way. Children of No One is one of those stories that like the Devil's hand keeps pokin' at my heart with a long fingernail. This is one of those stories that despite the lack of any gore, or in your face shocks, still manages to chill you to the very core of your being. This is an excellent mix of psychological and cosmic horror, where the true horror of the story comes not from the supernatural, but from the horrors of what one man will do in the pursuit of art. And how that man justifies what he is doing.
Children of No One is a very claustrophobic novel, with a small cast of central characters, playing out against the vast, barren and bleak gigantic underground labyrinth, with it's Angels of pure desolation. The way in which vastness of the artistic project juxtaposes with intimacy of the cast is sublime, it also serves to make the final act where cosmic horror makes its appearance all the more chilling.
It is a huge credit to Nicole that despite the confines of a novellas length she also manages to add a highly intelligent discussion on art and sadism into the mix, without it feeling out of place. I'll be honest I didn't fully understand some of the points being discussed, however in no way did it detract from the sublime story telling of a gifted author.
Children of No One, comes highly, highly recommended, it is not often that I read a something that brings such a fantastic new take on the genre.
Krieg is an artist who has made a massive underground labyrinth in which he has trapped several young boys. They have been raised in this maze and believe in angels, the angels feed them, the angels tell them when they deliver the food and ring a bell to let them know where the food is but the walls of the labyrinth move daily so getting to the food isn't as easy as it seems. The whole thing is made as an art-piece.
This (very) short story is extremely creepy and disturbing but also very moreish. I loved the whole psychological side of it - when told from the boys' POV, it is scary and weird but when told from the artist or observer POV, they make it all seem so normal. Which really just serves to make it even creepier.
Advertised as a novella, I feel it's more short story. I read it on my to-work commute so not a lot of reading at all, but what was there was BRILLIANT.
The premise is very good but the author spends too much time on the characters discussing the artistic merits of the construct. I would have liked more background and detail of the maze, its inhabitants and their life. The characters are a little stereotypical ( the artist wears a beret , Mr No One sounds like Dick van Dyke from Mary Poppins.) Despite this, I enjoyed it and will most certainly re-read.