Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Orgy of Souls" by Wrath James White and Maurice Broaddus

Note: this review is a bit out of date, but Apex is running a super deal on it. $10 for the hardback!

’Why won’t you answer me?’

‘Not enough,’ a voice finally murmured and extinguished the candles.

Samson collapsed into an exhausted heap of spent flesh. ‘I’ve failed.’

‘Twenty for one. Their blood must be spilled for the covenant to be made.’

Samson shivered as the meaning of the words sank in.”

We all know who Wrath James White is; he’s the giant, muscle bound, imposing force whose appearance every bit matches his name. He’s a tad notorious for his vivid, visceral and blunt-force trauma fiction and I’ve heard that the novel he wrote with Ed Lee will eat your socks and shit out Greg Brady. But who the heck is this Maurice Broaddus feller? Word on the grapevine holds that he has made a bit of a name for himself as the Sinister Minister, known for mixing religious themes with slow-boil atmospheric terror. This should be interesting.

Samuel and Samson are brothers, not twins and light years from identical. Samuel has chosen the path of the cloth, a devout priest who, even in the face of his own wavering faith, clings to his belief in his God. He is also suffering from the slow, leaching decline of AIDS. Samson follows the way of the flesh; an atheistic hedonist of the highest order with faith in nothing but himself living the high life of a popular male model (Blue Steel!). The only thing he cares about is his brother and he isn’t about to sit back and watch while Samuel diminishes before his eyes. He’s found a loophole, a deal that can be made: twenty souls, twenty lives in exchange for his brother’s. Cue butchery.

Given the polarized world-views of the authors and characters that seem to be caricatures of themselves, it would be hard not to expect this to be an extended debate on religion. Worse still, it would seem to be centered on one of the most clich├ęd arguments: the question of why a good and loving god would allow the righteous to suffer while the guilty thrive. To a certain extent, that is what Orgy of Souls is about, but that isn’t all. Not by a long shot.

Above all else, this is a horror story and these gentlemen have proven repeatedly that they know how to tell one of those. The dichotomy in styles ends up creating an interesting balance that allows each author’s personality and strengths to shine through. The action is just as brutal as anything we have come to expect from White, awash in blood, pus and spinal fluid. Meanwhile, there is a measured approach to the pacing that draws out and builds the tension exquisitely which, as a Broaddus virgin, I attribute to his influence. The result is a thoroughly entertaining and powerful work, i.e. a damn good yarn.

Delving deeper, it is impossible to escape the religious tug of war that is ostensibly the heart of the tale but to me the emotional center was a bit more all-encompassing. More than just a conflict of opposing viewpoints, this struck me more as a story about love. In these two brothers we see an equal amount of love for each other, but the conflict comes in how this love affects them and how they react to it. Love can be engaging, open, generous and hopeful, the kind of love everyone loves to sing about in sappy pop songs. It can also be selfish, smothering and ultimately destructive, the only kind that Samson seems to know.

Let’s recap: fun, bloody, powerful and thought provoking in interesting ways. What do you think my advice would be?

get it for the best price directly from Apex.