"Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Weirdpunk Books
Written by Eric LaRocca
2021, 120 pages, Fiction
Released on June 1st, 2021
I’m not gonna lie to you: Eric LaRocca is here to fuck up your day. The thing about it, though, is that if you’re reading this, chances are you want someone to do exactly that. This is a horror website and you’re not here looking for romance, so LaRocca fucking up your day is a good thing. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is as weird, nasty, and fast as its title is long, and that’s not a joke. If you like your horror implied, move on because this book isn’t for you. If you giggled when Kathy Bates grabbed the axe and then the propane torch to keep Paul where she wanted him, then this is a book you needed to read last week.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is a short novella, coming in at 120 pages, but the email and chat format it uses makes it feel like less. Because of that, going into too much detail regarding the plot would ruin a few juicy surprises. In other words, you should just know the basics: This is the story of two women who meet online because one of them is selling an antique apple peeler and their relationship soon morphs into something different. A narrative about obsession, loneliness, sadomasochism, and control, this novella is also a superb body horror narrative that will make many readers uncomfortable in the best way possible.
The first thing that merits attention in this book is the pacing. The story goes from nice to kinky to weird to what-the-fuck-is-this in about thirty pages. Also, because the narrative is delivered in the form of emails and chats, there are no descriptions of places getting in the way of the action, which makes every word pack more of a punch. In a way, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke demands to be read in one breathless sitting.
The second thing LaRocca does exceptionally well is showing the way loneliness can affect people and how the online world is fertile ground for bizarre connections. There is no long, complex backstory here and, in many ways, both characters are still a mystery to us by the end of the book. That said, the narrative is not about who they are but about what they do after making a connection and finding, for better or worse, what they were looking for in each other. People are lonely these days, so it makes sense when they start talking and things get kinky and playful a first. However, the effects of loneliness are often profound, so when the sadomasochism enters the narrative, we’re willing to go wherever it takes us without judgment.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is the kind of body horror that is more disturbing because of the psychological implications. There are two memorable scenes here. The first one includes eating spoiled meat, maggots and all. The second—which I won’t give away here because it’s a little gem all readers should discover themselves—involves a tapeworm. Together, and taken along with the rest of the narrative, these scenes prove that body horror punches harder when we know why it’s happening and have built some empathy for the characters involved.
This is a nasty, kinky, strange, gruesome book, and I mean that in the best way possible. There is a horror book out there for everyone, and this one isn’t necessarily for the quiet horror crowd…although they should read it because it’s great. LaRocca wrote a unique book, and that’s rare. Between the format and the content, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is a literary tapeworm that will dig into your brain and make you squirm for a while. There might even be times where you want things to be over, which is something that often happens to readers when reading Edward Lee or Ryan Harding novels, but once it’s over, you’ll find yourself wanting more, and that’s LaRocca’s greatest triumph.
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