I have no idea what this means or their criteria, especially since Nick Kaufmann has gotten TWO of these, but now I’m obligated to do something vaguely horror novel related … so I’ll talk about ME!
Just like I did with Orgy of Souls, I will keep an updated list of reviews of Devil’s Marionette as they come in. An early review has stuck with me, however. I normally don’t engage reviews/reviewers as they took the time to read my work and so they are entitled to whatever opinion they have. But this one really got under my skin (in a good way!). I think because it mirrors my experience when writing the novella:
I have a mental list of movies I’ve seen, and I don’t regret seeing them, but I never want to see them again. What Dreams May Come, Philadelphia, A.I and Funny Games all have their places on this list. Slowly I’m forming a list of books that I’ve enjoyed and would recommend, but never I want to read again. Devil’s Marionette by Maurice Broaddus is definitely edging its way onto this list.
There’s nothing technically wrong with this novella about the cast of a black skit show/sitcom descending into madness. The characters are raw, pain-filled and clear and the story itself is unfurled with the casual unstopablility of an oncoming freight train.
But there’s a weight here that threatens to crush the reader as well as the characters.
Broaddus’s novella starts right at the end of things and offers little in the way of background, or explanation, instead focusing on each individual breakdown of an otherwise talented and intelligent black cast. The crew aren’t being crushed by the white network bigwig (despite his efforts at dominating them), though, it’s their own connection to parasitic performers of the past that pulls them into more than personal darkness. Here it feels like the odds are so astoundingly set against them that defying the curse of the black performer is like trying to defy the laws of physics.
Yet despite this immersive, and painfully open experience of being each character as hundreds of years of hatred and racism crushes down on them, the reader is left with the same feeling as someone who witnesses something beautiful or terribly in a quiet woods. It’s almost as if this pain is clear and known, but we are not supposed to speak of it, or even admit that we know it’s there.
The aura or spirit of this book far out shadows the actual story within the pages. It’s left me feeling not thrilled, or entertained, but uneasy, a perfect tone for a horror novella to strike, but one not that makes experiencing it an entirely pleasant experience.