Book: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter
Publishing Info: Gallery Books, January 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: An all-new epic tale of terror and redemption set in the hinterlands of midcentury New Mexico from the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved “scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down…old-school horror at its best.”
From electrifying horror author Nick Cutter comes a haunting new novel, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Stephen King’s It, in which a trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. Shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. Stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. The remaining occupants are forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is now marshaling its powers…and it wants them all.
Review: I have heard of Nick Cutter. This horror author gets some serious buzz from other horror authors, like Stephen King, for example. Anyone who’s good by Stephen King is usually going to be good by me. I requested Cutter’s first big break novel, “The Troop”, but when I realized that it was a parasite story, I was an immediate NOPE and sent it back to the library and on to the next person. Some time passed, and then I saw that he had another book that came out called “The Deep”. I was tempted, but then I saw a reviewer say that it was more of the same creepy themes that “The Troop” touched on, and therefore I continued my NOOOOOPE because parasites + the deep deep ocean is just not my idea of fun. But THEN I heard about “Little Heaven”. Cults in the desert? I can handle that, I told myself. I love a good cult story!!…..
And then I saw all the NOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE stuff that I’d hoped to avoid in the first two books.
But I was invested and in it, so I powered on through. The good news is that since the themes and imagery was genuinely upsetting, this was a pretty damn scary book that messed me up pretty damn good. The bad news is that…… see the above gif.
Something that I found really interesting about this book was that it felt almost like a Western as well as a horror novel, and not just because it took place in the New Mexican desert. Outside of “No Country for Old Men” I’m not terribly acquainted with the genre, but if you have three mercenaries hired to check out a small town in the middle of nowhere, with little trust between the three of them, I feel like that just screams Western. I could be wrong, but whatever. The story follows Micah, Minerva, and Ebeneezer, three guns for hire who set out to check up on a small boy who has been taken to a compound in the middle of the desert. Cutter did a pretty good job of fleshing out all three mercenaries in terms of how they interact with each other and how they would react in the situation they find themselves in. But of Micah, Eb, and Minny, I think that Minny is the one whose motivations I understood the most, as in her heart of hearts she most wants to take out Ebeneezer because of a tragedy in her life that he unknowingly caused. In one of the many, many upsetting scenes in this book. Essentially Minerva saw her younger brother killed and devoured by a snake with no help in sight because Eb had killed their Dad. I totally got her rage and need for revenge, even when it seemed to be completely crazy and detrimental to the situation they found themselves in….. Ugh, the descriptions of a child being strangled and eaten by a snake will not leave me for awhile, I can assure you of that.
Little Heaven itself takes great influence from Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Between the physical description of Amos, the leader of this group, the fact that they started in San Francisco, and some of the rituals and proclivities they embark on, Cutter has definitely written a ‘love letter’ of sorts to the group that’s best known for drinking the Kool Aid. But while the group in Little Heaven is strange and pretty messed up on it’s own, it’s the strange demonic creatures that live in the wilderness that are the real threats in this story. And my GOD was all that just completely upsetting and disturbing as well. It got to the point where I was having a hard time reading this book in the evening because I was so freaked out by what I was reading. And while this is usually a good thing in the stories I read, it almost went a little bit too far for me. Visceral and very violent horror, especially of the body horror variety, is something that turns me off pretty quickly, and I have a hard time enjoying what I’m reading. I like being scared, but I don’t like being upset. And “Little Heaven” kind of upset me more than it scared me. The body horror violence just keeps getting worse and worse, and every once in awhile we’d be treated to some actual visuals thanks to an extremely talented illustrator…. but whose works were too good at putting what was messing me up on full display.
Nick Cutter does the job, but he almost does it too well when it comes to me. Add that in with an ending that felt incredibly existential and nihilistic just for the sake of nihilism, and I closed the book and felt yucky on the inside. Look, sometimes I enjoy a good nihilistic downer ending (uh, hello, “Hex”). But in the case of “Little Heaven”, so much of the pain that was heaped upon some of these characters felt undeserved, and while there were some bits of joy, overall I just felt kind of bad once it was all said and done. I know that that’s sometimes the goal of a good horror novel. But that’s so not my thing.
So I have to give “Little Heaven” a lot of credit for freaking me out and making me unable to read it at night. But it kind of made my heart hurt a bit too much along with the lots and lots of nopes that it bubbled up inside of me. I know lots of horror fans who will love it, though. You’re made of stronger stuff than I!
Rating 7: This book scared the living daylights out of me, but the ending was a bit too nihilistic for my tastes.
“Little Heaven” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Upcoming Books Of Note: Horror”, and “Best Picks: Adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Novels of 2017”.
Find “Little Heaven” at your library using WorldCat!