In my experience, synopses for horror stories can be quite generic. It is a genuine rarity for a book’s blurb to capture my imagination. Perhaps that’s why I was so impressed with the opening sentence in the description for Philip Hemplow’s ‘Sarcophagus’. Simple, yet effective: “Something terrible is stirring in the wreckage of Chernobyl.” As a child of the 80s and the Chernobyl Disaster one of my earliest memories of world affairs, I needn’t have read any more of the synopsis at this point since my interest had already been piqued in this title with that one line.
Hemplow has taken real life events (the disaster itself and projects to limit radioactive contamination) and created a race against time to complete the “sarcophagus” of the title before an impending snowstorm destroys what remains of the damaged reactor and creates yet another nuclear catastrophe. This storyline in itself would have made for a perfectly competent thriller in its own right. However, the author has decided to imbue his tale with a significant horror aspect, drawing not only on local lore but also on the mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft, thus conjuring up a truly unique addition to the horror genre.
The initial portion of the book sets the scene and introduces the reader to the protagonist, Dr Cox; the situation she faces and her relationships with the other principal players. It is not until Dr Cox reaches the site that the horror truly begins to unfold.
Critically, the weak point for this tale is its length. Sarcophagus is a novella and I would suggest suffers for it a little. Although the story is rich, courtesy of the already established real life events of the Chernobyl disaster, some aspects felt a little rushed and I am of the opinion that with a little more development, that this title would be a truly awesome novel.
Given its length, Sarcophagus will take you no time to read at all but I would commend this title to fans of the horror genre as it is a well-researched tale fraught with peril courtesy of trigger-happy militia, madmen, rabid dogs, malevolent beings and a collapsing nuclear reactor!
A well written and entertaining novella length story set in a contemporary Ukraine, similar to Hemplow's previous work The Innsmouth Syndrome, in that is mixes a scientific theme with something darker, older, and far beyond our understanding. Why is the project to shield the Chernobyl reactor behind schedule? Where are the workers disappearing to? What is that in the woods? And who keeps messing with the computers?
If you like techno-thrillers, folklore, and live in dread of many-formed entities from distant stars take a look.
I really thought Hemplow would find it hard to follow up his excellent Innsmouth Syndrome, but Sarcophagus manages it. At it's heart is a nightmarish Lovecraftian tale set in the ruins of Chernobyl that can outscare almost any works by more celebrated horror writers. As with Syndrome, Sarcophagus has a strong female lead, a wonderful cast of supporting characters, and science so accurate I actually wondered if Hemplow has studied nuclear physics. If you're a fan of Lovecraft, or great horror stories, there's no finer way to spend 77p.
Self and indie publishing often get a bad press, but this is an exceptionally fine story, well-researched and very well-crafted. The horror moves from unease to terror in an effortless escalation of threat and the last two pages are bleak and chilling - and entirely in keeping with Lovecraft's established world view. Not being a nuclear physicist, I can't attest to the accuracy of the rendering of the Chernobyl setting but it certainly felt authentic to me. The main characters of Victoria and Osterberg are fully rounded and sympathetic, but by far the most impressive creation is Swan, whose dialogue is almost entirely composed of specious management jargon and whose fate, perhaps because those platitudes are so obviously unfit to address the rapidly worsening situation, is really rather disturbing. All in all, I must say this is an excellent novella and its beguiling mix of environmental disaster, folklore (both ancient and more modern) and brooding fear is enough for me to recommend it without hesitation.
Liked The Innsmouth Syndromean intelligent modern and respectful Lovecraft-universe novella, liked this as well. Creepy, smart, topical and wierd,this is well-researched with a mounting atmosphere of unease and a race against time against nuclear disaster.
I liked the business speak(cringingly and accurately like those jargonated power-point presentations I have to endure at work) and the references to Chernobyl folklore and Russian folk-monsters are fascinating.
Enjoyable and entertaining. There is lots of independently published stuff on Kindle, some poor, but this is the good stuff.