Hi fellow 9th circle dwellers. I’ll be as vague as I can with the particulars, but there will be light spoilers ahead.
Book TW: Rape (mentioned, not depicted)
Nothing really dies if it’s remembered, his wife had told him.
In the dying village of Al Tarfuk, lost among the war-stained dunes of eastern Libya, professor Norman Haas learns the location of the tomb that had been his wife’s life pursuit. The final resting place of Kiya, the lost queen of Akhenaten, whose history had been etched from the stone analogues of history for her heresies against the long absent pantheon of Egyptian gods.
He never expected to discover that the tomb was the final resting place to more than the dead. And as his team of researchers find themselves trapped inside the ancient tomb, Norman realizes all too soon that his wife was right-
Nothing really dies if it’s remembered…
But some things are best forgotten.
Dan Franklin’s debut supernatural thriller is a tale of grief, of loneliness, and of an ageless, hungry fury that waits with ready tooth and claw beneath the sand.
I’ve been enjoying things recently, which is very disturbing to me, so I picked up this novella in the most mean spirits I could muster and prepared to chew it to pieces. Unfortunately, I was immediately disarmed by the wonderful formatting and artwork – which I liked looking at immensely. I mean, would you just look at the layout for each first chapter page…
So, Norman and his team go to investigate a tomb, and immediately get sealed inside it. Without being able to get out, and being in unmapped territory, they have no choice but to go down into the tomb.
I’ll be honest – initially, I wasn’t very interested. I’d say for the first six chapters, I was even verging on bored. However, all of a sudden, I realised that I was extremely invested and from that point on, I couldn’t put the book down. I’m not sure whether that’s because I was in a bad mood when I started reading, or maybe it just took a little too long to get going for me – but I did get hooked, and it was a great time after that.
The A plot is obviously the tomb expedition, and then the B plot is about Norman struggling to process his grief over the death of his wife. The grief element of this wasn’t depicted in a heavy-handed way, more like it was fed in at certain junctures, almost like I was just being reminded of where Norman’s head was every now and then.
I can’t imagine the horror of being entombed, and a lot of my favourite books and movies involve people who are trapped. – especially when they shouldn’t be. Reading this, I was reminded of things like The Blair Witch Project, and Cube, in that the group are trying to work their way out of the tomb but even when they mark their way, they end up circling back on themselves even when it seems impossible, and the walls around them seem to change. Being lost is one thing, but applying logic and sufficiently marking your path so that you SHOULD find your way out, but can’t, is so much worse. I love that in a horror story – when the very location works against the characters – it conjurs up a very specific sense of doom that I just find delicious.
“The feeling of being digested was undeniable.”
I grew to care quite a bit about the characters, and worried about their seemingly-doomed fates. There are some excellent deaths and moments of horror in this story that had me on the edge of my seat. I liked the themes – death, religion, the after-life – all dark and heavy but not depressing (which is surprising, considering Norman’s life – that poor guy). I was also pretty pleased with the ending too – it felt neat and circular, but unexpected.
I wonder if this whole story is allegorical. This is very much Norman’s journey through grief, interlacing with present events in unexpected ways. It made me ponder the reality of living with terminal illness, and also being someone who survives the loss of the person afflicted. It’s sad and sort of melancholy, but explored in a (literally) deep way. I often felt that the futility of the group’s escape attempts were mirroring Norman’s emotional state, and that each reluctant step that took them even further into the tomb was metaphorical of the process of grief itself. Grief is one of those processes that is forced upon people, a lot of the time unexpectedly, and there is no choice but to work your way through it, however you do that. Once it begins, it must reach its inevitable end.
I think that the author is skilled, and creates the parallels of inner and outer conflict with expert precision. I’d even go as far as to say I was impressed.
I’d recommend this to a wide audience as I think it ticks a lot of boxes. If you enjoy horror stories set in tombs, complete with religious/spiritual mystery and creepiness, this is for you. If you enjoy deeper themes and take delight in story construction, or have an interest in the assembly of ideas, I think you’ll like this. If you’re just looking for a straight-up horror story akin to something like The Descent, this is probably for you.
If you’d like to get your own copy, you can find it here:
If you’d like to learn more about the author, Dan Franklin, you can find him here:
If you’d like to check out the publisher that released The Eater of Gods, you can find them here:
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