Book Review: Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge


Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

When Herman and Janet Erikson’s young daughter, Melody, is killed in a hit and run accident, their lives quite literally fall apart. Janet is consumed with suicidal thoughts and seeks solace in alcoholism, while Herman finds himself increasingly unable to cope with his wife’s inability to move past her pain, to the point where he begins to despise her. When their dog goes missing in the coyote infested desert near their home, Herman sets out to find the animal. When he finds the dog near death, a stranger appears and miraculously saves the animal by giving it a drink from an ornate bottle, Herman, and later, Janet, become obsessed with the bottle, and its power to bring things back from the brink of death. An obsession that will have dire consequences for them and everyone around them. Especially once Janet’s thoughts turn to revenge against those who caused the death of her daughter.

Bottled Abyss is a very different novel from Ethridge. His Bram Stoker winning debut, Black and Orange, was a tightly written action horror that strayed into dark fantasy. Bottled Abyss is a much more introspective offering, looking at the darkness within each person and the fragile nature of the human condition and the relationships between the main characters.

That is not to say that this is your standard dull literary horror offering. Far from it. The prose is often lyrical, almost poetic in its nature, which contrasts the bleak nature of the narrative in a very effective manner. When someone drinks from the bottle, they cough up a coin, which, when passed to someone else, exchanges the death meant for that person with the recipient. When this happens, the narrative switches to a stream of consciousness first person perspective which works incredibly well, heightening the tension of the victims impending encounter with The Fury, a monster straight out of ancient Greek mythology, that seeks justice and dispatches the unfortunate in some original and gory ways.

Bottled Abyss is a remarkable novel. One that stayed with me and played on my mind long after I’d finished reading it. It cleverly mixes ancient myths with modern society, and populates its pages with interesting and complex characters that I could not help but relate to, and in many ways, empathise with. The pain that Herman and Janet go through at the start of the book stayed with me, and meant that I was still hoping that they could escape their fates, even when their actions begin to cross from “moral grey area” into “downright wrong”.

Benjamin Kane Ethridge has matured as an author, and I would not be in the least surprised if he ended up winning another Bram Stoker award for this book. It’s thoughtful, clever, heart-breaking, horrific and bleak. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

9/10

You can buy Bottled Abyss by clicking on the link below

Bottled Abyss

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~ by graemereynolds on September 20, 2012.

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