Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book review: Concrete Grove- Gary McMahon

I love Urban Horror, absolutely love it. There's a starkness to it that just butters my toast. For a video game fix of it, I have Silent Hill. For a music fix, I have The Axis of Perdition (It's an acquired taste. Trust me on this.) With Concrete Grove, Gary McMahon has filled out the literary avenue for me.

Concrete Grove is the tale of a low-income, high-crime housing complex in Newcastle, England, and the people who live there and around there. The day-to-day, grimy, very tragic lives of these people is being intruded upon by something primal and dark, something all the more terrifying because they don't know if it's for the better or worse. Things start off bad, and then get worse. To tell you more than this regarding the plot really would give too much away.

McMahon's characters in Concrete Grove are, quite honestly, some of the most broken ones I've ever read.  It's a hard call to say whether or not the supernatural elements of the story are worse than what the main characters have endured and currently endure in their mundane lives. You find out early on about the histories of each of them, and they are straight across the board horrible. The major horror comes from where these histories lead them too. Overall, the supernatural horror elements play second fiddle to the human horror. This isn't to say the supernatural elements aren't utterly disturbing and terrifying, it's that they're the condiments, not the main course.

As you may have guessed, this is a disturbing, harrowing read. I'm not saying this in a "I frikkin' dare you!" type of way, it's just a warning. If the combination of the potential bleakness of the human condition and supernatural darkness that's never fully explained is your thing, you do yourself a great disservice by not reading this. Otherwise, consider something that'll let you sleep at night. At any rate, I'll definitely be checking out McMahon's other work after this. Rating: Five out of five cracked-out monkeys.