In Toxin’s debut supernatural thriller, a comic-book store owner’s simple small-town life is turned on its head when he enters a parallel universe.
Luke Thornton spends most days in his shop, insulting his customers and not caring if they ever return. But when he faces strange occurrences at his home, including the sudden appearance of a ghost, he jumps into his car and speeds away. He gets into a wreck, only to awaken near a passage to another dimension. A stranger in a tuxedo gives him a book and tells him to find two similar volumes in order to unlock secrets of the multiverse. But something sinister seems to be at play, as Luke soon has dreams and visions of Saarlathesh, the Insect King. Toxin’s novel is brimming with preternatural beings, including many that are essentially giant bugs (one specifically resembles a praying mantis). It also offers a great deal of humor, although its protagonist’s unremitting sarcastic remarks lead a couple of characters to say, “That’s not funny.” Luke is a funny, if not very sympathetic, character who mocks everything from his town’s failed businesses to comic-book collectors. (In one uproarious scene, he chooses a lesser comic book to use as a makeshift weapon instead of a prized graphic novel.) Readers will warm to him as he teams up with the other “book keeper[s],” including the stuffy, English professor Southway and Harry Breck, who lives in a literal dump. The three men venture together into an abandoned asylum laden with insects of varying sizes and a dark, creepy cellar. The third act takes a strange but wonderful turn that amps up the action, and readers will quickly realize that Saarlathesh may not be the worst thing the characters could face. The open ending leaves room for a sequel, and the possibilities will set readers’ imaginations spinning.
A deliriously Lovecraft-ian adventure with a wicked sense of humor.