Kill Monster by Sean Doolittle

August 27, 2019

When treasure hunters excavate the long-lost wreck of the Steamship Arcadia from a Kansas corn field, a buried creature awakens – a mindless brute made of accursed earth, shaped like a man, but in no way mortal. A century and a half after its creation, the golem’s sole mission resumes: to assassinate a savage pro-slavery guerilla commander named “Bloody Bill” Wolcott. Wolcott, of course, is long dead, but his closest surviving descendant – a corporate IT burnout named Ben Middleton – is quite available.

Ben’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, and he’s learned from experience to expect the worst. But he’s never faced the kind of doom posed by a 150-year-old mud monster with no “off” switch. And that’s not even his biggest problem. Because there’s one last stop in Bloody Bill’s bloodline: Ben’s teenage son, Charley. Ben would do anything to protect Charley – if he doesn’t strangle the kid himself first.

Ben’s only hope lies in a motley crew of protectors: the descendant of the creature’s original handler; the intriguing new hire from work; and his fellow nerds from First Floor IT. And if he survives, Ben faces an even worse fate: His 40th birthday is right around the corner.

Wow, I haven’t read a horror novel in six months. It’s high time to remedy that situation. This week’s review is Kill Monster by Sean Doolittle. The premise couldn’t be simpler. What happens when a curse is placed on your family? What, if anything, could you do to avoid the inevitable?*

Ben Middleton is an average guy; divorced, in a dead-end job and stuck in a rut, there is nothing special about the man. I found it pretty easy to relate. It helps that Ben and I are of a similar age, and both of us work in IT support. The only real difference is that faced with a killer mud monster, the chances are I’d be dead in about ten seconds, Ben fares slightly better. Our protagonist has a son called Charley, another link in the familial line. All of Bloody Bill Wolcott’s descendants are a target for the golem so once the monster is done with Ben, then Charley is next on the list. Unsurprisingly, that is quite a motivator. You’d do anything for your kids wouldn’t you? If that means hurling yourself between them and a supernatural entity intent on their death, as well as your own, you wouldn’t miss a beat. Ben may not be the best employee in the world, he is a bit of a shambles everywhere in his life if we’re being honest, but he would willingly die for his son.

There is that marvellous frisson of impending doom when it comes to reading about a creature like a golem. It’s the same feeling you get with zombies. That sense of unstoppable single-mindedness that means they will absolutely never stop. A golem is given an objective, pointed in a direction and carries on until their task has been achieved. You know from page one that Ben and the golem are heading towards an inevitable showdown. It has to happen. There is no force on Earth that can stop the two from meeting, there needs to be a reckoning. A while back I read Jaws by Peter Benchley, and I liked how the author captured the actions of an apex predator driven by an overriding need. There is something similar going on in Kill Monster. Shark’s gotta eat, golems gotta kill.

If I had one criticism, I think the author could have ramped up the gore factor. The scenes featuring the golem cutting lose and obliterating everyone in its path are suitably destructive, but I wanted more. I’m guessing that someone getting pulverised into a bloody smear is a messy business. I’d be quite happy with some more visceral descriptions of said ickiness.

I’ll accept that perhaps Kill Monster will be a little bit too cheesy for some. Maybe it will be viewed as too over the top, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. This is writing that’s nothing but honest, and that makes it hugely entertaining. Kill Monster is the sort of read that is easy to get yourself caught up in. It owes a lot to its literary and cinematic forebears but that’s no bad thing. Once Ben and company realise just how much trouble they are in, the sense of tension and the pace of the novel ramp up a notch. It’s a fun ride. An unstoppable killing machine versus a down at heel IT repairman who just happens to have had a nasty ancestor, what’s not to love?

People often use the term guilty pleasure when describing something they enjoy but would be generally dismissed. I’d imagine that there will be some that describe Kill Monster as exactly that. Personally, I loathe the term. Kill Monster might not take itself too seriously, but it is far more than a guilty pleasure, it’s a bloody good read.

Kill Monster is published by Severn House and is available now. Anyone who enjoys a bit of B movie-esque monster mayhem would be strongly advised to check this out.

It felt appropriate that my soundtrack recommendation to accompany Kill Monster has some with a suitably sinister air. The jangly nerve-twanging sounds of in the soundtrack to It Follows by Disasterspeace are a damn near perfect fit. If this music doesn’t capture that sense of foreboding that permeates the entire novel, then I don’t know what will.

*My personal preference would be to hide under the nearest available rock, but I don’t believe that is considered a viable option.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *