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Snarl John Boden Main

"Snarl" Book Review

Written by Shane D. Keene

Published by Dead Sky Publishing

snarl john boden poster large

Written by John Boden
2023, 145 pages, Fiction
Released on September 5th, 2023


When John Boden picks up a pen, it becomes a surgical steel scalpel, its sole purpose the carving of muscle, meat, and tendon, the reshaping of lumps of creative flesh into complex character studies.

Honestly, nobody’s better at it. That simple little statement comes hype-free, and his fiction backs it up with every outing. A master of short, biting novellas full of blood-pumping hearts, jaw-dropping visuals, incisive backstory—just enough—and oozing emotion, he comes about as close to a fine art painter as any author I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. And Snarl, his new book from Dead Sky Publishing, is his finest solo accomplishment to date.

I’m not going to tell you a lot about this story. It’s short and fast and easy to spoil. And it’s vicious as hell. Because that’s what Boden does. He knows life is mean, and he knows people sometimes do mean shit in response. But he also knows most folks, fucked up, broken, bad decision-makers all, are inherently beautiful, complex, and motivated by love and passion. Marlin Stains is such a character. Having killed his own brother in the womb, he’s a loving son haunted by a pall of guilt, watching his mother wasting away with cancer and just trying to get by and do the right thing. Unfortunately, “right” is a complicated concept when mixed with influence, particularly when the influencer is a bad person, and Marlin’s desire to please soon sends his world spinning out of control.

Boden-style horror—at a very surface level—relies heavily on a particular formula that goes something like this: take a sparse handful of characters; use them to populate a vast, visually bleak landscape; combine that with sparse, absolutely necessary backstory elements to paint a canvas so epic in scope you’ll feel like you just read The Stand in two hours time. He writes with a grab-you-by-the-gullet, breakneck pace that just might leave you gasping for breath if you get a chance to come up for air.

You won’t want to come up for air, though, and when you do, you’ll be sad and satisfied on multiple levels, as Snarl leaves finally with the most gorgeous, poignant, heartbreaking vignette. A visual like I’ve never “seen” in a work of fiction, and not only will I never unsee it, I’ll never want to. And when you read it, you’ll never want to either. I have an ever-evolving list of top ten ever favorites, and I won’t tell you what they all are, but I will tell you this one slotted itself right in there with no urging from me. It’s fucking wonderful, folks. Read it.


Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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About The Author
Shane D. Keene
Staff Reviewer - USA
Shane Douglas Keene is a reviewer, columnist, and poet living in Portland, Oregon. He spends his spare time drinking scotch and/or beer, playing guitar, and thinking of ways to scare small children and puppies. He pays meticulous attention to beard maintenance, mostly because it freaks people out, and he writes about dark fiction and poetry in various places, including his blog at Shotgun Logic.
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