"Sinkhole: A Horror Story" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Midnight Grasshopper Books
Written by April A. Taylor
2019, 219 pages, Fiction
Released on 10 October 2019
If you’re after a very fast-paced, short and punchy adventure horror novel from the same playbook used by the likes of Michael Patrick Hicks, Eddie Generous or even Hunter Shea (when he is in mellowed mood), then Sinkhole: A Horro Story is well worth an evening of your time. It starts fast, picks up even more speed, has an outstanding change of direction halfway through and hurtles towards a controlled but satisfying finish. You will easily read all 200+ pages without drawing much of a breath or pause. Admittedly, there is probably not much on offer you have not come across before, but don’t hold that against April Taylor; she knows the genre and this over-the-top disaster romp has more than enough to keep readers eating up the pages.
At first glance (and second!) the story could have been lifted straight from a disaster movie script; giant sinkholes begin to appear in certain parts of America and then rapidly expand across the country. Initially this looks like some sort of freaky natural disaster, but the cause for this catastrophe is not revealed until the second half and I will not be providing any spoilers, but I did think this was a cool way of adding extra spice to the story. In the spirit of all great disaster movies, the story has a disparate collection of characters which are quickly knitted into three plots Sinkhole skilfully manoeuvres between. Considering this is a relatively short work, the brief sketches of those involved are strong enough for the reader to tap into their fear, bewilderment and hope for their survival.
The first sinkhole appears on page one, in Michigan, and the story fires off with the momentum of a runaway train that it maintains for the duration of the ride. Tomboy Allison is playing in her back garden when her mum Allison hears a horrible scream; she runs to the garden to find her small daughter frantically disappearing down a massive hole. In this exciting opening scene, she only just manages to save the terrified child, who claims something tried to drag her into the gaping abyss. When the man of the household turns up, it is clear Scott has an alcohol problem, but can he put the bottle down and escape with his family as more sinkholes appear? He is not the most likable of the characters the plot tracks, but you’ll still be quickly drawn into his internal conflicts.
Sinkhole then jumps to twins in their early twenties, Rachel and Ivy Meador, who are researching in a rural area of West Virginia when Rachel is bitten by a crazed and viciously aggressive deer. Helped by an armed local, Thad, Rachel goes into shock and is rushed to hospital. It becomes apparent there are many other animal attacks and there are more than sinkholes to worry about. The bottom line is that crazy stuff is going on everywhere and nobody can keep pace with developments, least of all the police and government who drift in and out of the story. This is another strong plot strand, with the twins thrown together with a guy they have just met and quickly rely upon this stranger as very soon things go from bad to worse at the hospital. A genuine sense of helplessness sets in with deadly escalations everywhere, with the sinkholes only part of the problem.
The third and final group of characters feature a homophobic Christian, which is the most clichéd of the three character groupings, as Don is thrown together with married couple Doreen and Jill. Although neighbours for many years, Don was never truly 100% certain the women were a couple, but a foot injury means he relies upon the pair to escape sinkholes and the widespread destruction of their town. They feud, backbite and do not get on, but have no choice but to band together for survival.
The short chapters rotate at breakneck-speed as America collapses unbelievably quickly and the author throws the kitchen sink at her bruised survivors. If you’re a fan of novels which concern the immediate collapse of society, then Sinkhole: A Horror Story is well worth a look. It will probably remind you of lots of other books, but as quick trashy easy reads with sketchy but engaging characters go, it tickles all the boxes.
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