“Am I just a body?” asks the four-year-old daughter of Nicholas Slopen, unfortunate protagonist of Marcel Theroux’s metaphysical thriller Strange Bodies . The answer Slopen gives us, the reader, “not even that”, is less than comforting. The quest to discover what it is to be human, and how we ignore the truth of the answers we find, fuels the narrative of Strange Bodies , a literary horror novel which terrifies not with gut-wrenching gore, but with the existential dread of our own flesh.
Nicholas Slopen is a struggling English literature academic whose career and family life are slipping from his fingers. When he’s asked to prove the origin of previously unseen letters by dictionary-maker Dr Samuel Johnson, Slopen sees a chance for redemption. We already know the story will not end well because when we’re first introduced to Slopen he has been among the walking dead for some months.
Marcel Theroux demonstrates both great literary craft and an eye for the worst kinds of human suffering as he leads Nicholas down into an underworld of secret conspiracies and the occult. He succeeds in confronting the reader with all those nasty existential questions most of us spend our lives ignoring, and from them creates a sense of horror much more profound than the generic horror novels the book shares stage furniture with. Strange Bodies will be too scary for most horror readers.
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