"The Cockroach King" Book Review
Written by Chris Deal
Published by Beneath Hell Publishing
Written by Andrew Cull
2020, 65 pages, Fiction
Released on November 30th, 2020
Horror literature is at its best when the horror we are given is a metaphor for those very real fears we face in our real lives. Fear of the unknown, of death, or the loss of our loved ones. If you’re given words that let you face that fear, that lets you touch what haunts the dark of your soul and walk away physically unscathed but with more knowledge of that experience, well, that’s horror that serves its purpose.
In Andrew Cull’s recent novella, The Cockroach King, we are introduced to Cassie, single mother to a toddler, in search of a home to build a life in. Her mother is recently dead, and there is no one else in her life besides her boy, Sam. When she finds the home on Cedar Street, it’s exactly the type of home that reminds Cassie of her own youth. It’s with this that Cull starts slowly increasing the dread I’ve come to associate with him.
This is my second of Cull’s work, the first being Remains, which was released in 2019 by IFWG Publishing International. I read Remains earlier this year and I’ve been stuck with it ever since. Easily one of my favorite books in a year where I’ve read a larger quantity than normal, Remains is heavy with grief and dread, a slow creep almost imperceptible like a shadow flowing over you as you sleep.
There is a good bit in common between The Cockroach King and Remains. In both the protagonists are mothers to boys, though in the latter the mother is awash in grief from losing her child, and in the former the protagonist still has her child, a miracle boy according to her. In both the relationships of the protagonists are splintered by loss, in a way. In Remains, the mother’s relationship with the boy’s father falls apart when the child is lost, but in The Cockroach King it is an affair that cannot survive the father asking for an abortion. The featured house in both stories are also central characters in their own rights, both vividly described by razor sharp prose.
Where these books differ is the type of horror faced. The Cockroach King is, well, a literal title, and in a way so is Remains, but what those mothers face is where the split lies. With The Cockroach King, the horror is more physical, more visceral. It starts with the opening sentence, with bones being found in the backyard of that house on Cedar Street. From there we have a growing mystery that Cassie faces alone, something revealed over this novella’s pages quickly and horrifically.
The horror faced, well, some might find it extra touching, some might find it somewhat silly. It’s not explained, this force that Cassie must face, but how she deals with it is at the heart of this character. She feels completely real, and she is the core to this story.
The Cockroach King is still there, in the back of my head, as well as the knowledge that Andrew Cull is a fantastic writer, one that I am greatly looking forward to reading more of.
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