Written by Eric Shapiro
Published by Ravenous Shadows
There’s a lot to like about Eric Shaprio’s novella, “The Devoted.” I’m of the opinion that a good chunk of genre fiction is overlong and overwritten; an epidemic that has crushed some potentially great books (cough, “Duma Key”, cough). That’s not the case with Shapiro’s piece. It’s a brisk slice of psychological horror that doesn’t waste a lot of time on unnecessary details or superfluous characters. Instead, it’s quick and clean while remaining effective. So much so that once you begin reading, it’s fairly impossible to stop.
“The Devoted” surrounds a doomsday cult’s final day. It’s a narrative which switches perspectives between a mentally ill young man named Matthew, and various news stories and interviews all which help fill in background on the cult. Shapiro creates a wonderfully conflicted main character in Matthew, who runs the gamut from unlikeable, to awkward, to disturbing and then sympathetic. Sometimes all at once. Shapiro isn’t interested in exploring cheap shocks or excessive gore, instead he gets at the reader by making his characters real. Here, the horror doesn’t come from monsters, it comes from the twisted mind of man.
It’s difficult to elaborate any further on “The Devoted” without spoiling it. It’s not a particularly story driven narrative, but the strengths of the piece are in the way Shapiro captures the insanity of the cult and also, the suspense of what’s going to happen at sundown. We’re told from the outset that this is the cult’s “final day”, and the novella chugs along in a way that really makes you want to devour the book in one sitting. The paranoia and desperation are as believable as any story ripped from the headlines, and that’s exactly why this piece resonates. It feels real – even when bordering on the impossible. A testament to Shapiro’s abilities as a writer.
If you’re like me and you spend way too much time browsing eBooks online in search of genre fiction worthy of your hard-earned cash, look no further. Try “The Devoted” if psychological horror is in your wheelhouse. I really dug this, and I’ll certainly be checking out whatever’s next from this author.
4 out of 5