Uncanny Valley Days – by C.J. Sampera – Book Review – Novella

Hi, fellow 9th circle dwellers. There’ll be some slight spoilers ahead – but nothing that will ruin the main story for you. Because Goat Leader said I’m not allowed to intentionally ruin books for you. What a goody-four-shoes.

Book trigger warning: attempted rape, suicidal ideation, mental health

Rocked by grief and recurring apparitions of her dead brother, Olivia is losing her grip on reality and may have inadvertently invoked a cybernetic, serial-killing slasher demon. Or is it all in her head?

Olivia Peramo is a writer and an artist at heart, barista by trade who struggles with multiple mental health issues. All of which have only been intensified by the recent loss of both her parents and her older brother Alejandro. And to top it off, she may have just inadvertently invoked an evil entity with one passive-aggressive rage tweet.

Soon enough, the people that cross Olivia start winding up dead, and she’s being made to watch each grisly murder as they unfold. Is she part of some elaborate hoax? Is this sinister force really breaking her reality and murdering innocent people? Or has Olivia completely lost it and started killing them herself? Not to mention, the ghost of her dead brother keeps popping up every time she smokes a little weed.

The book opens with Sean, Jaime, and Edgar – a group of stoner friends enjoying a stoner sleepover. Now, not that I’ve EVER partaken of that delicious pronged leaf – because it’s illegal where I live, and I’m a law-abiding goat – but man, were these guys relatable. The way they talked, bantered, behaved… why, these guys are amongst the finest stoners I ever did see. Also, major points to the author for including the first Jerky Boys reference I have ever seen anywhere, in my entire life. I was beginning to think I’d completely imagined the Jerky Boys after eating a hash cookie. Er, I mean… dreaming them up in a sober dream. “I was going ‘do-looodle-oooodle-ooo-doooo’ and he don’t like it, and he stung me!”

So anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying these guys and in my mind, making friends with them. Imagine my surprise when they all die horribly. I tell you, that is a balls-out way to open a book. I…. had an emotion, a postive one. What did Jolly Goat call it?… “Tolerated?” No, that’s not it. Oh hell, it was “loved”. I loved it.

What else did I like? Well, I was a fan of the word “Techronomicon”. That gave me a good giggle. I’m also a fan of the protagonist, Olivia, whose story is heart-wrenching, and had me invested.

There are loads of pop-culture references in this story, from movies to music to videogames, to obscure details of what was popular in the 90s, and quotes plucked from popular shows, this book is absolutely packed. Personally, I like this. This book is set in the real world – our world – and it irks me when I’m reading stories set in our world and no one talks about anything that exists. I guess that some people don’t like it because apparently it takes them out of the story, but I find it helps immerse me even more. Something about all of the things that came up makes me think that if we knew each other, I’d be best friends with the author.

On the other end, of course, there are some things I didn’t like so much. You know me, I pick holes in everything, with my magnificent horns. I’ve yet to read a perfect book (challenge extended to every writer out there, by the way – PLEASE send me a perfect book!).

I simultaneously liked and disliked the demon and the lore surrounding it. I thought its conception was a great contemporary idea that was very interesting. I don’t know why, but it gave me Bagul from Sinister vibes, and I enjoyed its vicious nature. I did think the lore became a little convoluted, and would have benefitted from being a simplified. Additionally, it’s explained almost entirely in the prologue, but we still have to read pages and pages of Olivia working it out, which did make my eyes glaze over at times. Sometimes, giving the reader information before the characters know it builds tension and drama in a sort of ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ way, but it didn’t quite work for me here.

At 223 pages, this is a bit on the long side for a novella, and honestly, I think at least a third of it could have been cut without impacting the story. But that opens up the question – while a chunk could have been cut, should it have been? Tarantino writes plenty of supposedly irrelevant conversations all the time. Stephen King is known for delving off into back stories and tangents that, ultimately, don’t impact the plot, but those tangents DO inform the characters. I’d say that’s true here, too. Half the dialogue could have been condensed, but it’s possible that would have been at the expense of the characters, who were entirely fleshed out. Though I think I would have preferred the writing to be a little tighter in this regard because it would have better served the pacing and flow of the story, I have to acknowledge that the author put a hell of a lot of thought and work into each character and their interactions.

Overall, I’d recommend this to people who like a bit of technology with their demon lore.

If you’d like to get your own copy, you can find it here:


If you’d like to check out the author, you can do so here:


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