If you’re looking for a very fast paced horror novella, which does not take itself too seriously, think about taking a punt on Broken Shells, the latest release from Michael Patrick Hicks. I had previously reviewed his Mass Hysteria elsewhere, which is another fine piece of fast moving trashy horror. The stories have little in common, but both exhibit the author’s cool knack for creating undemanding pulpy horror which moves along at eye-watering speed and is fine company for a few hours.
In this review I am going to be deliberately vague about the plot as I want to limit spoilers on where the story goes. But as an initial point of reference, this is the first work of fiction I have read which mentions Donald Trump as POTUS, and amusingly the main character Antoine DeWitt loses his job after getting into a fight at work over the merits of Trump’s presidency. Go Antoine! You did the right think knocking that dude’s teeth out, but let’s not stray into politics.
Antoine is in a tough spot. He has a moaning wife at home, a small child to feed, no cash, debt, and is desperate for new work after the fight saw him fired. His wife Chantelle, who badgers him non-stop, reckons they have won five grand on a “Money Carlo” scratch card which came in the mail. Antoine is sure this dodgy lottery ticket is a scam, but his wife forces him to visit an out-of-town car dealership called “Dangle Chevrolet Dealership”, which he must visit in person to claim his prize. Certain they will try to sell him a car he can’t afford, he goes along in the faint hope it is not a con. On arrival he meets the owner Joe Dangle, who confirms he has indeed won the magic $5000 prize. But, things are just about to go from bad to worse, as Joe Dangle is interested in Antoine for something more than his terrible credit rating.
Once Joe realises Antoine is an easy mark, the novella really starts to go through the gears. Yes, it’s totally ridiculous, the body horror violence is bloody, far-fetched, and way over the top, but it sure is fun. Don’t expect deep levels of character development, but you’ll have fun rolling with the punches. I found myself cheering on hard-as-nails Antoine in his brutal fight for survival, doing what a man must do in his plight to see his family again. I’m not sure who Michael Patrick Hicks is influenced by, but I’m pretty he’s an old-fashioned sort of guy who reads a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s horror, probably science fiction also, as he is very good at mashing up the two genres. For fans of gore, ridiculous monsters, sly nods to other books and a brutal fight to the death, Broken Shells ticks every trash filled box.