It’s not often that a book actually haunts me. I have been engaged with books so much that I haven’t put them down, cover to cover. I’ve recoiled from text, winced in sympathetic pain with the character(s), and wept in sadness at a favoured characters’ demise.
What I rarely experience from a novel, is the need to put it down. To walk away from the story and clear my mind of images which are bluntly traumatic, and written with such excellence that every sentence slices away a little more of my sanity.
In Suffer the Children, Dilouie has crafted a story of not insignificant excellence. It is not at all surprising that the book has made the preliminary ballot for the 2014 Bram Stoker Awards. From the outset, it is evident that this book is all about character. As is seen so much in horror fiction, the real monsters are (eventually) the humans themselves. Where this book can claim some mastery over others in the genre, is in how it goes about showing us, just how fragile, and just how very human, the characters in this story are.
Dilouie shows us real families with real troubles and triumphs. From the outset, I put my lot in with them, not realising that, as the pages wore on, I had been lured into a false sense of security. Characters that had been protagonists slowly became antagonists – not quickly, you understand me. Over a process of weeks, they become steadily deranged as the havoc wreaked by the Herod syndrome roots itself deep in society. I suppose the most unnerving thing about this story was that, if something like ‘Herod’ were to occur, I could realistically see the scenes in this book playing out across the world.
I loved the way the book set around building you up, just to tear your hopes down; this, perhaps, was the only way for you to understand the desperation and the sheer inhumanity with which some of the characters ended up acting. If Peter Pan had been a vampire, he’d have chosen this as his story.
There were some deliciously sickly scenes, some of which were reminiscent of the human desperation and isolation in Let the Right One In by John Adjvide Lindqvist.
The ending, too, was just right for the tone of the novel. This book is searching, and for some may take a brave and concerted effort to finish; but damn, it is worth the effort.