I've spent the past few minutes trying to find some sort of information about the author, his books, or the like. The only two pieces of information I have found have been his Myspace Page and a short blurb on Dorchester Publishing's Website. Having now read two of his books, kind of enjoying the first one (2008's Queen of Blood) and more enjoying this one (2004's House of Blood) I thought it might be interesting to get some more background. Well, c'est la vie, I suppose. I'll keep looking around.
When I wrote the review to the sequel--Queen--I noted that the biggest flaw I had with the book was the fact that it missed the necessary punch to the viscera it often wielded. The phrase I used was that there was too much blood, and not enough meat. Gore can either be a tool of horror or a tool of action. In the latter, it is the hero or the villain slicing through people to get to their goal. In the former, it is a violation of the very thing that makes us human. Though Smith's gore was plentiful, and vivid, in Queen of Blood it felt more like a stepping stone to a goal than an act of horror.
This is the first bit I was looking for in this novel. I wanted to see how gore and horror mingled with the dark fantasy elements here. My opinion? Much better. While there are killings and torture and sex here, as in Queen, this novel is more understated. Things are suggested in most places, rather than described. The gore is not meatier, and in fact could stand to be a little bloodier this time (I know, that sounds bitchy of me to say), but it does help to keep it in a voice that Smith is good at wielding. The Below, and the House in general are places were everyday people are shoved into horrible conditions until they either die or embrace the horror, generally without point and without end. Small hints of sexual torment and perfume filled razor cuts are enough for us to fill in the rest.
The characters in the novel are fair, ranging from mostly shallow to somewhat complete. None of them are fully thought out, with Chad being the most tolerable by far (and Cindy, though we never quite see enough of her). Not even The Master felt complete enough to stand up to much inspection. Mostly the characters show Smith's fanboy love of the horror genre, with echoes of well hewn archetypes. You have the oversexed jerk, the nerd turned spiteful, the beauty queen who is emotionally unstable, the nympho, the domanitrix, the older wise man, and so on.
As the story progresses, I realized two related truths about this book's relation to its sequel. House of Blood tells a more direct story in which everything ties together better (but note what I say about the endings in a moment). The second truth, though, is that Queen of Blood is better written. This novel has a story and gets it told, but the sequel has more of a strength of characterization and more of a feeling of self-mindedness. This novel is about tumbling towards an inevitable end, while the sequel is about not knowing what happens next but knowing what must be done. Both lose narrative footing and tumble too freely in the end, but it does not feel quite as out of place in this novel as it does in the more controlled sequel.
This novel also gets a general rating of Eh, but is more recommendable than Queen in that I think its story is a little easier for the average horror fan to get into, having the strong feeling of a fanboy's novel written to be read by other fanboys. I could not tell you which one to read first. I like the way I did it, but I think that the proper order would probably work out just a tad more.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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"The hidden is greater than the seen."