Right up front, allow me to get past the part of the review where I’m forced to write something cliché—a statement proclaimed in reviews since the beginning of time. Well, since the beginning of Goodreads and Amazon at least:
This is my first by this author, and it won’t be my last.
While the above statement is true, it’s painful to write. I’m supposed to be a creative, offering clever ways of stating the simple, beautifying a sentence and adding flavor to an otherwise bland declaration. But it was going to be in here somewhere so why not right at the beginning? Get it over with. A quick summation of my past and future history with the writer.
Everything is Horrible Now is the fourth book in Edward Lorn’s Bay’s End universe—his very own Castle Rock, if you will. This being the fourth book is a little detail I didn’t find out until a quarter way through. Because I’m a completist, it was upsetting. I don’t care if it’s a series of books, a movie franchise, or rewatching every episode of Seinfeld for the 6th time, I want to start at the beginning. And if I can’t do that then I won’t even start. Fortunately for me, Horrible felt like a standalone. Toward the end I did sense I might be missing out on a heightened reading experience, maybe an Easter egg here and there, had I been more familiar with Bay’s End, but I was never completely lost.
Right away the book kicks off with a sense of dread as a pastor kills his wife, baby, then himself, while a young boy watches. The baby. Yes, Lorn goes there. And while the murder is not graphically depicted, the entire horrific scene is orchestrated such that the reader becomes leery of future pages. What other unsettling disturbances lie ahead?
This tone is kept throughout much of the book, and by the time you’re halfway through, it feels like shower time. Not quite fetal-position shower, but a quick one to regain composure, get the dirty written word off your skin, the Irish Spring in the air and a splash of favorite cologne/perfume to distract you from the atrocities happening in Bay’s End.
As the mystery of Father George’s spontaneous act of barbarity unfolds, Lorn breaks away intermittently, giving characters backgrounds that never feel like info dumps or padding. These strategically placed sections are interesting, entertaining and build both hatred and empathy for the helpless pawns in Bay’s End. This is all textbook stuff for writers: A beginning hook, organic characterization and background. But not every author subscribes to that, particularly those within the self-published and small press realms, both of which where Lorn resides. But he’s been to the school of Stephen King’s On Writing (and other creative-writing bibles) and hit the honor roll, taking extensive notes on pace and killing darlings.
However, this review is not without complaints. One of them merely being based on personal preference, while the other is a bit of mold on an otherwise healthy loaf of bread.
The story heads into other-dimensional, cosmic horror-type areas that normally aren’t in my wheelhouse. But it’s Lorn’s impressive writing and characterization that kept me interested enough to enjoy the rest of the book. I realize I’m the lonely guy at the party standing with maybe one or two others, eating the plain chips and double-dipping, raising our noses at stories that ask too much in regard to suspension of disbelief, while most of our peers are on the dance floor without a care in the world as they proudly dance in the skin of otherworldly beings. So, take that complaint with a grain of salt (man, I was really trying to stay away from clichés here).
My biggest complaint, and I suspect I may not be so alone with this one, are the handful of “preachy” moments in the book that completely pulled me out of the story and felt more like agenda rather than fiction, as Lorn explores atheism versus creationism. Part of this was necessary for the story, but much of it wasn’t. As someone who reads fiction for escapism, political and religious arguments will pull me out of a story faster than anything. Thankfully these moments are few, and again, it’s Lorn’s stellar writing that kept my palm away from my face while my eager fingers turned the pages.
For those on the dance floor, this one’s for you. For you, nothing is horrible here. This is your jam. And because it’s such a catchy one, I suspect the plain-chip guys in the corner—the ones who don’t want to dance—will find themselves cutting the rug anyway with any of Lorn’s Bay’s End books if they’re as good as Everything is Horrible Now.