Review From User :
A wonderful and disturbing blend of genre-warping originality...
Southern Gothic meets Cthulhu Mythos
Hard-boiled noir meets new weird horror
Dark and gritty meets gruesome and gore...
Fresh, unique story-telling meets the writing talent to do it right.
This is a debut novel Shut the front door! No way. You might as well dial in the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel as this is an easy win. Tightly plotted with great characters and a back-story/mythology that will glue you to the page. This is a great find.
Bull Ingram is a HUGE man working as a debt collector for a local loan shark in the post World War II South. While being hired by a local record executive to track down a missing employee, Bull hears a recording from a pirate radio station of a legendary blues singer known as Ramblin' John Hastur. Hastur's music is mesmerizing and powerful, but deeply disturbing and is rumored to literally drive people insane.
As Bull listens to the lyrics, "Have you seen the yellow sign Have you found the yellow sign," he feels the music's effects and is seriously shaken by the experience. More than the rhythm, more than the guitar, the man's voice made Ingram feel like something was wrong, like something was not right with the world and this man's words were the first outward sign of a deeply buried, world-spanning cancer. The record exec wants Bull to travel to Arkansas and find the missing employee as well as track down Ramblin' John and sign him up. Bull takes the assignment and finds himself thrust into a small town, southern Lovecraftian nightmare complete with "elder gods," religious apocrypha and a mysterious blues man whose music soothes wakes the savage beast and drives people to commit abominations.
That is just the tip of the iceberg plot-wise but enough to give you a good idea about the story and the more you discover on your own, the better.
First: This is NOT for the squeamish. There are some seriously graphic and disturbing acts committed/discussed in the narrative. Several of the more shocking are depictions of rituals and mutilations found in the Necronomicon which plays a part in the story. Below is an example of one of the rituals so you can get an idea of the level of horror...WARNING...it's pretty graphic...: He caught his breath.
An illustration glared back at him. A grotesquely fat man sat naked in the middle of the floor marked with designs, a knife in his hands. Blood pooled around him, from a wound in his crotch. He'd severed his own testicles. In the next panel, the man crouched over a bowl and defecated in it, blood spilling onto the feces from the wound in his groin. In the last panel, the man, with a look that could be pain or joy, sculpted a creature from the shit, pushing his severed testicle inside his creation, into its chest... Despite the very graphic nature of the prose, I found none of it gratuitous and the shocks were incorporated to convey the level of horror and depravity that the characters were up against.
Second: Be prepared for a major Lovecraftian CTHULHUgasm that could leave you spent and shaking. Southern Gods is one of the more realistic, detailed explorations of the Cthulhu Mythos that I've read. While staying faithful to the established mythos, John Horner Jacobs creates an original, well fleshed back story that I just loved. What's more impressive is that I think the back story will appeal to both fans of the Cthulhu mythos as well as those that are either unfamiliar with or (perish the thought) don't care much for it. The story really stands well on its own.
Third: Great, well drawn characters abound. Bull, the disenfranchised, ex-soldier whose been made cynical by life but is not yet wholly lost to that cynicism. Sarah, a tough survivor of an abusive marriage whose family history may hold the key to Bull's search. Sarah's daughter, Franny, whose innocence and kindness help to melt the wall around Bull. Plus Father Andrez, a renegade Catholic priest who is the story's repository of knowledge relating to the dark arts and lore of the elder gods.
Fourth: John Horner Jacobs has some writing chops and his prose is incredibly polished for this being a debut novel. Particularly effective were his depictions of the "effect" that Rambling John's music had on his audience. The scene at Ruby's...pure gold. Plus, as graphic as they are, the descriptions of the rituals and acts from the Necronomicon are very imaginative and certainly memorable. Bottom-line, Jacobs has skills.
Fifth: Unpredictable. Don't get comfortable because Jacobs doesn't play it safe with his narrative or his characters. The end is fantastic but a serious shocker and things will happen that will make you double-take, WTF and go bug-eyed. You've been warned.
In sum, a brilliant debut and a real gem of a find. If you are a fan of dark, gothic horror and can handle some disturbing images, this is a must read.
5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!
Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin’ John Hastur. The mysterious blues man’s dark, driving music-broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station-is said to make living men insane and dead men rise.
Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur’s trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil.
But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he’ll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell…
In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.