Little Heaven is the first major horror novel of 2017, and it’s going to take a monumental deluge of quality horror to keep it off of those end-of-year best-of lists that will start popping up 11 months from now.
Nick Cutter has built a career on exploring and expanding his influences, particularly the work of Stephen King, and those influences once again reign supreme in Little Heaven. Here, Cutter mines King’s magnum opus, IT, for his book’s basic structure: group comes together, fights supreme evil, survives, disperses, and is drawn together again when the evil resurfaces years later. There’s also a hint of King’s Dark Tower series, embodied in a monster who deals in riddles.
But make no mistake—this is no mere pastiche. Cutter may wear his influences on his sleeve, but he’s developed a clear, strong voice through his body of work. His characters are complex and relatable—perhaps not as iconic as many of the heroes and villains King has created, but they live and breathe within the context of the novel; many of them walking that shaky tightrope between good and bad, sympathetic and irredeemable. There are also humans and creatures alike that dive deep into the darkness; it’s these characters Cutter really sinks his teeth into, creating portraits of pure malevolence that are chilling and repulsive.
I’ve avoided a plot synopsis because I went into this book blind, and I hope you’ll do the same. It’s enough to say that Little Heaven follows the trend established in Cutter’s novels The Troop and The Deep: take a group of characters, isolate them, and unleash hell upon them. This time around, the isolated setting is a remote religious retreat, stashed deep in a forest which has long been infected by something ancient, twisted and evil. Set against it are three mercenaries, accompanying a woman on the seemingly simple job of making sure a relative is safe within the retreat. What they find there turns all of their lives inside-out.
Little Heaven is another excellent addition to Nick Cutter’s growing body of work, a grotesque masterpiece that sets the bar high for horror fiction in 2017.