CriminOlly thinks: Extreme horror which fails to shock or horrify. 2/5
Every so often I try another extreme horror book and once again don’t enjoy it. Sick Bastards is the second of Matt Shaw’s books I’ve read, and I liked it even less than the first (Octopus). It’s not just Shaw either, I’ve tried other popular extreme horror writers like Jon Athan and Aron Beauregard and come away similarly unimpressed. My issue with the books is not so much the extreme nature of the sex and violence the books contain, but everything else that surrounds it. Explicit content can be enormously effective when you care about the characters, if you don’t it quickly becomes a slog to read.
Sick Bastards is about a family (mother, father, adult son and daughter) who live together in a small house. Some kind of terrible (probably nuclear) event has taken place and society has crumbled. The family keep themselves entertained by having sex with each other and fed by killing and eating other people. The book opens with a very explicit scene of sibling incest that is interrupted by the call from mum to come downstairs for a cannibalistic feast. That lack of any build up whatsoever is one of the problems with the book. There is no gradual ramping up of tension, just a headfirst dive into content intended to shock.
And it is shocking at first, purely because of the nature of what is being described. But any sense of outrage or transgression drains away almost immediately, because the reader has no connection with the characters at all. In fact, far from being appalling or grimly titillating it quickly becomes plain boring.
This is a book that carries a warning on its cover (“Warning this is an extreme horror novel. It is not intended for those who are easily shocked or offended”) which it completely fails to live up to. Let’s also consider the fact that the author chose to sensor the pretty mild swear word included in the title. It makes what should be alarming feel incredibly safe. Which is the book all over really.
Title: Sick Bastards | Author: Matt Shaw | Publisher: Self-published | Pages: 238 | Publication date: 18th January 2018 | ASIN: B00HY129FC | Source: Purchased
WARNING: THIS IS AN EXTREME HORROR NOVEL. There is gore. There is bad language. There are scenes of a sexual nature. But hidden underneath it all is also a chilling story. Please do not purchase this book if you are easily shocked, disgusted or offended. This book is not for you.
A family will do anything to survive after a nuclear attack has left their world in ruins. Actions which even surprise them…
Content Warnings: incest, cannibalism