Lori suffers from stress-induced migraines. She is enjoying a pain-free day shopping for groceries when she is approached by a woman crowding her personal space. Lori notices the woman has peculiar eyes… a slit instead of a round pupil.
“Confess and atone-or suffer.”
This confrontation marks the beginning of Lori’s bizarre involvement with The Cabal. Each encounter grows in intensity as The Cabal invades Lori’s life and sense of security. Tim Waggoner is skilled at immersing the reader in Lori’s experience. It’s terrifying to consider that someone could become targeted by a dangerous cult with no real explanation why and no way to call them off. What would you do?
There is a nagging feeling of doubt and suspicion as the reader wrestles with sorting out what’s real and what is perceived reality. It was always in the back of my mind that the first thing we learned about our protagonist is that she suffers from migraines. Especially when Lori begins to see “shadow people.”
The most compelling thing about Your Turn to Suffer is that there is no way a reader would ever be able to predict where it is going to go. There are moments where my jaw dropped open in shock. Waggoner blindsides his audience several times introducing genre-bending facets to the plot suddenly and without warning. Having read a few of Waggoner’s stories before, I thought I had pretty decent expectations going in, but I was wrong! This book descends into full-on madness: explicit sex acts, graphic violence, and a healthy dose of bloody gore.
Something I struggle with in storytelling narratives is a dream-like or a drug-induced state of mind. I don’t like feeling disoriented for long periods of time where I start to lose my footing in the story and I can’t tell what’s real and what is just happening in a character’s mind. This happens a few times and I felt a little confused. Also, bizzaro or cosmic horror both have a tendency to lean too far into the weird for my tastes. I do enjoy experimental or speculative fiction but there are times where it can test my patience and I’m unable to suspend disbelief or sometimes; stay invested.
Fortunately, Your Turn to Suffer doesn’t rely too heavily upon those tropes, slipping into it occasionally but not heavily. There were times where I felt challenged but I can report I was able to track all the way through to the end — and what an ending!
Waggoner is literally the blueprint for horror writers. He’s had a long successful career and I’m eager to keep reading his new and older titles. I’m a fan.