Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Book of Paul, by Richard Long

In a slight departure, I'll post a review that I wrote of Richard Long's debut novel, The Book of Paul, an Amazon #1 Best-selling Horror title that surprisingly has many of the same philosophical/mythological ingredients as The Last Ancient, but Mr. Long mixed it all together with a decidedly horror-stained knife. I reached out to Mr. Long after reading his book -- it made me feel less strange to see someone else's mind had travelled in an even remotely similar direction as my own in creating a fictional universe-- and he seems like a good dude.

Here's my review, as posted on, where you horror fans (and this is pretty rough horror; it's as graphic as it is intelligent) can get The Book of Paul.

Piercing, Thrilling, Intelligent Literary Horror

The Book of Paul hammers one piercing into your brain with its deft prose and then slams another piercing through your heart with its dark psychological truth. It links the two bloody holes together by a gold alchemical chain of richly drawn characters and philosophy, dragging you by it down a rabbit hole of thrilling action, unsettling horror, shockingly sweet love, and exquisitely researched mythology and serial-killer-psychology that haunts the reader, changing you as much as The Book of Paul’s characters themselves are altered by their indulgences in dark obsessions, tattoos, piercings, extreme ritual violence, and even more extreme body modification.

This novel is about many things. Each thing is held up to a sinister glowing black light by an innovative, fluid mix of genres, styles, and perspectives. But most of all The Book of Paul seems to be about the process and results of transformation: about inner change and its physical manifestations, be it defined by spiritual transformation of the C.G. Jungian alchemical variety and its pursuant enlightenment, or the darker kind, something like transmogrification of the classical horror variety, which the book revels in. The characters--richly fleshed out with literary back-stories in the tradition of backstory grand-master Stephen King himself—become so real that readers wince every time the needle pierces their flesh, every time a new emotional abuse pushes them further into their own private hell.

Ultimately, The Book of Paul contains everything a horror fan could ask for, as debut author Richard Long serves up his own brand of thrill-fear in a mouth-watering stack of flavors: murderous evil, body horror, deeply nuanced psychological horror, and more. His shadowy portrait of transformation is colored by darker shades of torture and suffering contrasted with, perhaps more importantly, brighter meditations on love in its various forms, from erotic to familial (and several shades between). It’s all told with dark humor via an ingenious narrative device allowing the “voice of God” third person perspective to be conveyed by another central character who, given the laws of Paul’s universe, believably tells the story with compelling, wince-worthy insight and intelligence.

By God, this is a good book. It hooks you immediately with the travails of its heartbreakingly broken characters, and pushes you along the path to the fascinating conclusion via your shuttered-eyed sympathy for their actions, which are often egregious insults to morality.

Long’s largest character is his villain, Paul. Particularly poignant is Paul’s evil-paternal relationship with the co-protagonist, Martin (a Clint Eastwood badass anti-hero molded into a borderline psychopathic soldier by events beyond his control; whose still-redeemable soul is touched by Rose, a pierced Goth princess whose own troubled past hasn’t entirely corrupted her capacity for love; and who, together, could tip the balance as representatives of opposing forces of a world-threatening prophecy).

The Paul/Martin relationship is one of the better I’ve read. It mirrors the bond between cult leader and cult Lieutenant, between bully and sycophant, between abusive father and love-damaged offspring, between any person, really, and the narcissistic abuser controlling their life. It’s a relationship that by its very nature is horrific in how the borders of love and hate, kindness and torture, charm and soullessness, abuse and protection, are so often trespassed as to shatter one’s core to pieces so that the abuser can glue them back together into whatever form he desires to maintain his follower’s dependence. The co-dependent backbone of this relationship comprises real horror because even though it’s applied to a vaguely supernatural being and a child of preternatural destiny, this relationship is a reality for many, and shows how not bad people can be shaped into instruments of destruction. When horror teaches us about humanity, it has reached special heights, literary heights (think: Glen Duncan, some Stephen King, all the old Lovecraft/Poe/Shelly/Stevenson/Stoker classics) and the Book of Paul does this.

All ye who enter here, know this. There is torture. There is alchemy. There is sex. There is blood. There is prophecy. There is humor. There is alchemical symbolism. There is action. There is horror. Yes, there is horror.

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