David and John are likeable protagonists, David being the more grounded one, and John the reckless troublemaker. They’re both chronic slackers, working at the same video store and spending their time playing video games and playing the aforementioned gigs. Pargin makes them endearing in two ways: 1, their sense of humour (the dialogue is witty and smart) and 2, basic good-heartedness.
That’s not to say the book’s all sweetness and light, though. Pargin delves into some dark subject matter, even for a horror novel, amping up the gore and fear factors several degrees. He manages to make the threats faced by David and John both silly and frightening, each quality feeding the other. For example, in the prologue they face off against a sentient human-shaped pile of meat, and Pargin plays up both the absurdity inherent in the concept and the actual fear that might induce. It’s a delicate balancing act which is on the whole very well-managed.
What’s unusual and interesting is that the story takes place over several years. This gives it some breathing space, allowing for the more frenetic action beats to be spread out and for the reader to see what John and David are like in their normal lives. It also means that the invasion by Korrok is able to happen gradually, increasing the scale of the threat by showing how deeply the world has been infiltrated.
If I have a criticism of the book, I’d say it’s a little one-note. Pargin has a vivid imagination, bringing to life all kinds of bizarre horrors, but the tenor of these encounters remains largely the same throughout. However, he makes up for this with plenty of tension, emotion, surprises, and laughs. For a book that revels this much in silliness and absurdity, I found myself quite moved at points, and sincerely caring about what happened to the characters. It’s not perfect, but I had a blast reading it, and I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the series.
And does John die at the end? Well, that would be telling.
Review by Charlie Alcock