Review: Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day

Grind Your Bones to DustGrind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day
Excession Press (October 10, 2019)

212 pages; $14.99 paperback; $6.95 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

“Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he’s real. I have seen his work.” No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

Sometimes the right story, told by the right author, finds itself in your hands at just the right time. I received Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day as a printed manuscript, three hole punched, brad at the top and the bottom holding the many pages together. It felt special when I held it.

Flipping through, I saw illustrations; striking, intentionally scribbly illustrations of man and beast.

I already knew from reading Nick’s short story collection, Nobody Gets Hurt and Other Lies, what I should expect from his first novel:

The unexpected.

As I devoured this book, I had the distinct feeling that every single word was chosen with meticulous care and concern; no words were added flippantly, wastefully or without great intention. This kind of mindfulness from the author has a mesmerizing effect on me as a reader. This book is so compelling and gripping, my very life was suspended and held in tension until I finished.

Told in four parts, the first three parts are told almost as isolated events. There are small connective threads of familiarity, either with characters or the storyline, woven through so that you know that at some point everything is going to come together and it will be epic. That apex moment of all the points of light intersecting is in part four. The brilliance of it all is breathtaking; literally, the most masterful climax and conclusion. I have never read its equal.

It would be utter ruin if I were to overshare any of this book’s unique storyline. Part One starts right off with the protagonist, Louis Loving, fleeing a strange horror in the middle of the night. You have never encountered predators such as these in all your horror journeys.

Part Two features a villain so unfathomably evil…I could say with confidence that James Hayte is the single most wicked character to ever terrify me in literature. Second only to Cormac McCarty’s the Judge in Blood Meridian. There are murderous deeds committed you will never want to read again, and Nicholas Day writes them in such a way that you are unlikely to ever forget a single one. Part of me wishes I could scrub them from my mind and part of me wants to applaud Day for being the kind of author who absolutely knows how to write exceptionally memorable acts of violence. He understands that sometimes full detail is not required to project a horrifying act into a reader’s mind. Things can be suggested with just the right words, and it’s more unsettling than full disclosure could ever be.

One of my favorite characters is Billings, a supernatural raven who speaks in these prophetic parables and mysteries. Billings and James somehow find each other and the two of them together are some of my favorite storytelling moments.

Part Three is the introduction of some important characters who are going to lead us back to Part One. This portion of the story provides the reader with some of the best dialog I’ve ever read. Truly some profound words are exchanged and I found myself wanting to either commit everything to memory or furiously scribble down notes, so I did both. It’s in Part Three that I read one of the scariest horror fiction moments I’ve read to this day. It reads like an intense scene in some indie horror movie that is talked about for generations. Once you read it, you’ll know—that’s the scene Sadie was talking about. Like already said, Part Four is Nicholas Day showing us what he’s made of.

He writes like a man possessed, as if the very story you’re reading has somehow taken over Day’s being and poured itself out onto the page. I don’t know if Nicholas Day sold his soul at a crossroads to bring us Grind Your Bones to Dust, but this book feels like the result of a pact made with the Devil to bring us the finest horror has to offer. I’m thankful this is his first novel, because it is this reader’s opinion it will propel him farther out into the industry and we can plan to enjoy many more novels from him. I’ll be standing in line.

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