Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he’s on a hike to the River Styx, the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead.
Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever…
This is the second novel from Bram Stoker winning novelist Benjamin Kane Ethridge. His début novel Black and Orange was a brilliant take on the mythology of Halloween. I’ve always wondered if authors suffer from the difficult second album syndrom that musicians have to deal with. And if this is more so when your début novel wins the best début novel category of perhaps the most well known horror awards.
If Benjamin, suffered from this then it doesn‘t show one bit in this spectacular second novel. One of things that I loved about Black and Orange was how he played around with the mythology of Halloween, and this is something that he does again in this book. Only this time he plays around with the myths surrounding The river Styx and the most famous of boatmen.
Bottled Abyss, is an excellent example of literary horror, the book is intelligent and more importantly intelligently written. The story will suck you into its dark and cold waters and won’t let go of you until you have paid your dues. Ethridge cleverly mixes horror, Fantasy, dare I say it Urban Fantasy, and even Noir, into a uniquely captivating read. With a narrative that has more twists and turns than the Amazon river. Things happen to characters that you just don’t expect, in some cases it’s a brave move from Ethridge, but it works really well, the shifting of the narrative helps to keep the story flowing along. There is one point in the story where you will be shaking your head and thinking ” NO, NO, NO”, but by the next paragraph you be saying “YES. YES, YES”. More than this I cannot say, for fear of giving to much away.
The use of the River Styx, could have come across as a cheap gimmick, but Ethridge utilises it in such a way that the integrates seamless into the story. My favourite character has to be The Fury, and its eternal search for a song. Which leads me to my one criticism of the novel, when The Fury is unleashed to it’s work, the narrative of the story shifts to first person, the first time this happened I was thrown out of the book. It was such an unexpected turn of events, however by the time The Fury was unleashed a second time, I was actually looking forward to this shift.
Bottled Abyss, is a brilliant novel, and a brilliant piece of writing. It’s a novel that deserves to be read by everybody. Please pick up a copy you’ll not be disappointed.