Broken Shells – Michael Patrick Hicks

GOREFEST!!!

I had planned on skimming the first couple of pages of this novella before putting it back in line behind other reads that are being released earlier, but I couldn’t help myself. I got sucked in by the mystery of what’s living beneath the surface and once I caught a glimpse of the nightmare I had to continue, because upon Googling ‘leatherback turtle’s mouth’ you’ve passed the point of no return.

While Antoine DeWitt is almost positive that the Money Carlo ticket promising him winnings of $5,000 is a scam, he’s having a bad day and hey, what’s the worst that can happen by checking it out. Arriving at the Dangle car dealership Antoine meets Jon Dangle, who confirms that Antoine is indeed a lucky winner.

Dangle and the generations of men before him have been keepers of an important secret, one Antoine is about to learn firsthand. The latest in an immeasurable offering of sacrifices, Antoine finds himself trapped in a subterranean nightmare.

When Antoine awakes at the beginning of the fight of his life, the description was scarily close to an account of hell I read a number of years ago. And then Antoine’s day gets worse.

If you’re highly offended by expletives and you don’t do well with gore or claustrophobia, then perhaps this is not the book for you. However, if you love getting creeped out by creatures that scratch around, felt but unseen, in the dark and the idea of something unknown tearing chunks of flesh from living people makes your heart race and an internal cheer bubbles up inside you, then my kindred spirit, this book was written with you in mind.

What commences as a certain death trap paradoxically twists into a tale of hope in the darkest of places, yet you’re constantly wondering if your hope is in vain. Knowing this is a horror novella, should our protagonist (and by default the reader) even hold onto this possibly futile hope? How much do you fight against what appears at first glance to be inevitable?

Broken Shells is a visceral experience, with oodles of ooze, gore galore, dry heaves and vomit, and some Alienworthy introductions to razor sharp creepy crawlies. With plenty of graphic imagery of the icky variety and a body count too large to number, our down on his luck hero faces an onslaught of bug monsters.

Michael Patrick Hicks capitalises simultaneously on our fears of the unknown and the dark. The atmosphere throughout the novella was a fun blend of suspense, dread and bloodthirsty anticipation. You’re likely to have some involuntary moments of squirming as you find yourself up close and personal with all of the stabby, slimey, ouchy and itchy details.

What if there were a creature above us on the food chain and that by delivering regular sacrifices to them you could potentially protect millions of others? Would those delivering the sacrifices be the heroes or the villains of the story?

What kind of mind comes up with a scenario so gruesome?! Ha! Who am I judge! I was the one simultaneously cheering on Antione and the subterranean creepy crawlies. As only Lydia from Beetlejuice can declare with the right level of creepy,

This, my friends, is horror done right! I can’t wait for my imagination to be happily grossed out again by this author.

New favourite word: ichor.

My takeaway moral of the story: Never ever trust car salespeople.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and High Fever Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Antoine DeWitt is a man down on his luck. Broke and recently fired, he knows the winning Money Carlo ticket that has landed in his mailbox from a car dealership is nothing more than a scam. The promise of five thousand dollars, though, is too tantalizing to ignore.

Jon Dangle is a keeper of secrets, many of which are buried deep beneath his dealership. He works hard to keep them hidden, but occasionally sacrifices are required, sacrifices who are penniless, desperate, and who will not be missed. Sacrifices exactly like DeWitt.

When Antoine steps foot on Dangle’s car lot, it is with the hope of easy money. Instead, he finds himself trapped in a deep, dark hole, buried alive. If he is going to survive the nightmare ahead of him, if he has any chance of seeing his wife and child again, Antoine will have to do more than merely hope. He will have to fight his way back to the surface, and pray that Jon Dangle’s secrets do not kill him first. 

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