Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: The Caretakers

Title: The Caretakers
Author: Adrian Chamberlin
Publisher: Dark Continents Publishing

Blurb: Hear the screams. Feel the pain. Face the evil.

As a Cambridge College celebrates a midwinter feast, four uninvited strangers uncover a devastating secret. A secret that must never be revealed… for the love of humanity.

Andy Hughes: a man with a dark past and an even darker future. His search for a missing student will lead him to a confrontation with an evil beyond human imagining…

Rob Benson: a van driver who discovers a dead wild boar in the back of his Transit. A boar that just won’t stay dead…

Jennifer Callaby: Andy’s estranged girlfriend, who discovers the shocking truth of The Caretakers — and the sacred task that they perform…

Jason Franklin: a prisoner who holds the key to the fates of them all, and who may well be their only salvation — if he doesn’t destroy them first…

A disturbing thriller that questions the nature of evil and the price to be paid for the continued survival of the human race – a price that, for some, is too great to pay…

The Caretakers… a Master’s Degree in terror.

Review: The Caretakers plunges readers into a visceral world of horror situated in the fictional college of All Souls in Cambridge. Adrian Chamberlin knows his stuff with regard offering a well-realised setting. Those who’ve read his short story, The Bodymen, in Dark Continents’ The Spectrum Collection, will pick up on certain themes involving delivery truck drivers, forklifts and dead beasts. But any more said on that and it will ruin the nasty surprise. The Caretakers offers a Cambridge you’ve never seen before and, thankfully, never will. All Souls College is suitably gloomy, with a dark history hidden behind the clunch stone walls.

Overall, Chamberlin’s prose is tight, highly descriptive and fast-paced. There were times when I felt he could have gone for a tighter third-person point of view, when viewpoint characters withheld key information as a method to build tension, but the fast pace and incipient sense of horror carried the story through. If gore isn’t your thing, watch out for the finger- and eye-violence. Chamberlin delights in a bit of well-aimed splatter, which had me wriggling in horrified delight.

The main characters, Andy and Rob, are fully developed and, although not likeable, at least admirable. Both go through hell, in some cases almost literally, in an attempt to overcome the evil they have inadvertently been tangled in. At times I felt Chamberlin could have cut back a little on the amount of secondary viewpoint characters he employed, but overall he’s handled the large support cast well with a high degree of authenticity in such a way that you can’t help but engage with them.

The Caretakers combines Lovecraftian themes with the Green Man myth in a reversal of female energies being active/destructive and male energies passive/fertile. The cosmic entity Andraste, is suitably frightening, especially with how she demands that her victims “sing” for her in a novel form of torture that will stay with me for a long, long while. Themes of death/rebirth abound, often in rather grisly situations.

As with all the offerings I’ve encountered from Dark Continents Publishing, The Caretakers is a return to horror in the classic sense. If you’re looking for a gritty, bloody and thought-provoking horror offering then this title will remain in your mind long after you’ve turned the last page. This is a strong first offering for a novel-length work and it can only get more dark and terrifying from here.

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