Book Review: Scott Dyson works Reciprocal Evil and The Cave
True to my word, this week I let someone else choose the books I reviewed. I had the pleasure of being approached by Mr. Scott Dyson recently, author of about 10 novellas and short story collections, after seeing my stream of less than stellar book reviews that completely dashed my horror hopes and nightmares. He asked if he could forward me a couple of his works in hopes that he might alleviate my run of poor luck. I acquiesced...after all, this was someone I personally communicated with throughout a couple of author forums we're both part of. What if I didn't like either of them?
I dove into the shorter of the two works that he sent me, The Cave. Written in May 2015, only 84 pages long, you can purchase it on Amazon as an ebook for .99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title and cover is the 2005 film, The Descent. I'm not a huge fan of that sort of horror and expected this to be along the same lines. However, the prologue reeled me in.
The story doesn't start out with your normal every day cave exploration, which I appreciated. Dyson immediately drops you into the lap of a monster that you cannot see or otherwise identify. Out of every book or story I have read in my entire life, this creature is quite honestly in a class of its own. It's unique and masterfully hidden. Dyson gives you a foundation to build your fear upon, such a beautiful melding of artistry and reader imagination that follows you throughout the entire novel, but at no point gives you the satisfaction of naming your demon. Whatever you have created with him will haunt you.
I was slightly taken aback by the overall tone of the novella. It felt very juvenile and I found a slight redundancy in the characters. A few of the other reviews mentioned very strong correlations to Stephen King's It and Stand by Me, which can either work for or against Dyson. I did not mind it, but I could see where others might. I could also see how a more unique quartet of friends to explore the cave might have helped make the novella stronger.
There were a couple of things that threw me off a little bit. This particular novella is written in first person from our narrator, Steve's, point of view. However, there are a couple of excerpts where Dyson switches to third person for more of a focus on the "Henry Bowers" of his story. I honestly felt like these sections of the story did not add to the plot and could have been omitted for a seamless personal account. I was also taken aback at the aging of our narrator at the end of the novel. Steve starts out as a thirteen year old boy, however towards the end he's a grown, educated man. Either the adolescent underpinnings of the novel should be removed and given a more sophisticated tone to match the age and experience of the narrator at the time of the story, or the story should not have included the more adult version of Steve.
While they gave me pause, these things did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. I found it to be easy to read and highly entertaining. The monster, as I stated before, is unlike anything I had encountered with any other story in this genre. I feel that Dyson took a very real fear and amplified it. If I ever had the inclination to go spelunking prior to reading this novel, Dyson obliterated that in one fell swoop. I'll keep my feet above ground, thank you very much!
After finishing The Cave, I'll admit...I was very excited and couldn't wait to dive into the second novel he sent me. Reciprocal Evil is available on Amazon as an ebook for $2.99 or also on Kindle Unlimited. Published in 2018, 160 pages long, it seems to be Dyson's newest work available on Amazon.
I'm so excited to tell you about this one! You may remember my review of Amy Cross' Don't Let the Devil Know Your Name a couple of weeks ago, a superb story with so many typos, missing words, and run on sentences that I couldn't see straight after reading. I was so discouraged that such a fantastic story was such an insanely huge let down. But Dyson...this book...he goes above and beyond in all the right ways! Not only is this story intriguing, suspenseful, and interesting, but it is beautifully written. There were a couple of areas where I felt like the supporting characters believed in something phantasmal a bit too easily, but I'll easily chock it up to artistic license.
The prologue starts out much the same way that The Cave does. We're immediately thrown into a situation that isn't fully explained, leaves us guessing, and definitely draws the reader into the rest of the novel. The story itself is a delicious mix between the psychological and supernatural. Written in the third person, thankfully, you immediately become invested in the quirky main character, Chris. He's the book nerd that gets the popular girl, a young man finding his way in the world and questioning his faith, if he has any at all. Dark family secrets allude to Chris' involvement in recent co-ed deaths in the area that have a local detective, and Chris' himself, contemplating his possible role.
There were still a couple of hiccups in the novel, a couple of instances where there was a missing word or a reference to "he" when it should have been "they", very simple edits. I felt that some phrases were repeated quite often within such a short novel, such as "somehow, for some reason" which felt overly redundant. There were also a couple of descriptions that fell flat for me, such as: "...he realized that she had been an extraordinarily attractive woman."
I wanted Dyson to make me feel this more, help me as the reader see it. Fleshing these bits out would have made for a stronger story.
However, these pieces in no way detracted from the story or overshadowed the lines that were pure genius such as: "The magic doesn't care that you don't believe in it."
Overall, I found this novel, very aptly named, to be such an enjoying read and would highly recommend it as a first foray into Dyson's world if you have not read any of his works.
If you have any book recommendations for me, I am all ears. I'm gathering more "Questions for the Author" for my upcoming newsletter if you would like to be featured as well! Just shoot me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, be on the lookout for my new novel, Whispering, scheduled to release in September!