CriminOlly thinks: Fun and grotesque body horror is slightly spoiled by an overly present narrator. 3/5
Title: The Gatherings | Author: Jeremy Ray | Publisher: Infinite Ray Publishing | Pages: 74 | Publication date: 7th August 2020 | Source: Author | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
The Gatherings is an end of the world style horror short story that grips and chills at times but doesn’t quite hang together as a whole.
The plot focuses on narrator Emily, a young aspiring writer who gets invited to a “gathering” in a remote orchard by a friend. The gatherings are supposed to bring about world peace but guess what? They don’t.
What follows is some pretty extreme and disgusting body horror, with graphic descriptions of the participants of the morphing into something quite horrific. Flesh mutates and melds and the result has that sickening appeal which categorises the gross out approach to horror. The writing for these sequences is strong and compelling. You want to look away but you can’t.
It’s the wildly unpleasant parts that kept me reading The Gatherings. The ideasare great and well executed on the page, well developed and skin crawlingly icky. What works less well is the rest of the book. Emily can be hard to connect with as a narrator, she feels like too much of an observer and not enough of a doer. She’s also overly present, by which I mean that I mean she never lets you forget that she’s there. She talks to the reader on multiple occasions and the book is filled with crossed out words where she has changed her mind mid sentence. That’s a cute and effective narrative technique at first, but soon begins to feel pointless when it is just used to replace one word with another similar word. Elmore Leonard wrote “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it” and Emily’s voice often sounds far too much like writing.
The Gatherings is, I think, a book in search of an editor. It has enough good parts to be an enjoyable horror read, but could do with some help to trim the fat and tighten the prose. I’m not sure if Jeremy Ray had that kind of support for his later book Petrified Women, which I loved, but that’s the one I’d recommend picking up if you want to try his work.
The Gatherings were supposed to bring world peace. What they brought was the apocalypse.
Celebrities, politicians, and other prominent figures put together The Gatherings, an event to be held worldwide promoting global peace. When a friend invites Emily to one of the gatherings in a secluded apple orchard, she obliges. Sure, she is an introverted writer, but the world is so fractured that The Gatherings are something even she can get behind.
Everything is great until the dancing begins. Then it happens…
In most apocalyptic tales, the end comes by way of viral plague, world war, or robot invasion. Never in a million years could Emily imagine it would be this way. Will Emily survive to see what happens after the end of the world?
Content Warning: Body horror
Tolerance Warning: All good