Review: Red X by David Demchuk

cover of Red X by David DemchuckRED X by David Demchuk
Strange Light (August 31st, 2021)
272 pages; $17.95 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I’m officially a fan of authors breaking the fourth wall within their novels in order to communicate directly to their readers in their own voice. I’m here for it. Red X is the second book I’ve read this year to use this literary device.

This book wouldn’t have been the same experience without Demchuk’s personal and vulnerable account of his own struggles as they relate to the story.

Both Red X and Demchuk’s first novel, The Bone Mother, tell essential stories from marginalized people threatened by suppression and persecution.

Demchuk shines a bright, focused light on Toronto’s gay district, The Village. A growing number of men are going missing while authorities turn a blind eye to the outcry of fear and concern from friends and family.
The author’s personal account underscores what fuels this apathetic response by explaining how his generation viewed queer people as living a dangerous, alternative lifestyle. Gay men going missing was seen as a consequence. The HIV/AIDS pandemic — a consequence. Getting fired from your job, church exclusion, family exclusion — all consequences.

Demchuk paints a grim picture as the reality of this situation comes to a boiling point. A whole group of people living in fear and isolation are totally ignored, leaving them vulnerable to whatever (or whoever) desires to prey on them.

It is truly horrifying and frankly, difficult to experience. My reading journey was that of immense concern, a heavy feeling of dread and anxiety, as well as this growing sense of urgency to check on my queer friends and family to make sure they’re not suffering from the neglect communicated in this book. It was easy to forget that some of this book is fictionalized, supernatural horror as the pace quickened and the pages flew by; and then David would step in with an interlude with that identifying font and I would remember that, ah yes…I can put my feet back on the ground. *big sigh*

It requires so much inner strength and bravery for marginalized creatives to share their work with society. The onus on society is to make sure it is well received, engaged with, honored, valued, and celebrated.

This is an important work for the horror community. A representation of an entire group of people with a voice not to be heard, but listened to; not just acknowledged, but seen. I personally want to thank David Demchuk. By telling your story, you told a bigger story and that will live on in this book for generations of readers to come.

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