A nightmarish vision and exploration into the desolation of grief!
Cull is a writer I first discovered when reading a review over at Kendall Reviews (the UK’s number one Horror site) – the book was Bones and the author was Cull. Based on that review it was a book I had to get and review here in the pages of STORGY. It sounded brilliant and I wasn’t disappointed (you can read my review below). So, whilst reviewing I was delighted to hear that this refreshing new voice was currently working on a novel and it was coming out pretty soon, and that novel my friends is the stunningly original Remains.
Remains follows the life of Lucy Campbell, a woman who was driven to a nervous breakdown after the brutal murder of her young son – committed to a psychiatric hospital in room 23B of The William Tuke institute. But something wont let her be, something is calling her, something is knocking at the door and pulling at her mind, enticing her to return to 1428 Montgomery Road and the scene of the crime.
Remains benefits from stripping things back and has a small cast of characters. It adds to the feel of the novel, creating an intimate and haunting quality, of lives under the microscope – showcasing in subtle and excruciating detail the desperation in the lives of those which have been affected by the murder of Alex.
Although these characters are all fleshed out beautifully by Cull, the best character by far is grief – it’s odd isn’t it, how an emotion can become fully realised, that it takes on a character all of its own, becomes fully formed and alive, a hulking beast within the pages. There is so much brutal brilliance in the way Cull examines and portrays this emotion that it quite literally reaches out a cold hand and clasps itself around your throat, never relinquishing its hold until the final page is closed. Grief and Cull’s depiction of it, becomes an all consuming juggernaut – Cull’s portrayal of grief and all it touches is brutal, honest and written with such realism and dark prose that you can’t help but be effected and left changed by this encounter.
Remains is a page turner of a book, the short chapters aid to this most beguiling of reads, causing you to consume Cull’s words at breakneck speed – but there is also some of the finest pacing I’ve encountered from a debut novelist. There are moments that pull you in (the letterbox scene for instance) and have you quite literally shitting your pants with his perfectly balanced tension and dread, which lurks menacingly and masterfully within his prose. Caught like a fish on a hook, Cull encourages you take a large bite of what he’s offering and when you do he never lets you go, the hook is lodged in your mouth. Thrash about, struggle all you want, Remains will have you hooked and it’s never letting you go.
The feel of the book and the haunting aspect brings to mind the great Shirley Jackson (in particular ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ in tone), but infused by a very bad acid trip. Making Remains a trip you return from slightly differently from when you set out, leaving you clawing your way out of Cull’s brilliance a maimed and bruised wreck of the being you started the journey as, but you’re changed in the most brutal and brilliant of ways.
Fear and dread are sewn majestically into each page, making Remains the most unsettling book I’ve read in years. I want to say more, to warn you more than anything, but I know in doing so it would destroy the macabre magic held within this book, so I’ll refrain from doing so. Remains is an accomplished exploration into grief, stunningly original, astonishingly dark and scary as hell.
Andrew Cull’s step up from short story collection to debut novel is quite astounding, a leap some people struggle with but one which I firmly believe Cull has taken in his stride, and if he keeps on going, he’ll be leaping ahead of the competition with each offering, astounding readers with his dark offerings for many a year to come – the futures not bright, the futures dark and I love it.
‘Remains‘ will remain the benchmark for any horror fiction I stumble upon this year, and in years to come with regards to reviewing in the digital pages of STORGY. Cull has single-handedly and exquisitely lifted the bar when it comes to writing horror – and it will be a hard task for many of the emerging and established horror writers to reach that bar now, blowing many of his contemporaries out of the water with his raw and unflinching style and his dramatic, disturbing and eerily poignant prose.
Remains is a gripping tale of grief, a grief that pulls at a person like an undercurrent, pulling them down into a dark abyss. It’s a book full of the monstrosities of the mind, of a darkness lurking in the shadows waiting to smother you in its cold embrace and drown you within its grief.
Miss this book and this author at your peril – Remains will become a cult hit.
Andrew Cull is an award-winning writer and horror director. He wrote and directed the horror hit “The Possession of David O’Reilly.” His story collection Bones was released to acclaim in 2018. It has been described as ‘a masterclass in emotional cinematic horror fiction.’ Andrew lives in Melbourne, Australia. He loves horror and Hitchcock, and, like you, he’s not easily scared. Remains is Andrew’s debut novel.
You can read our review of Andrew Cull‘s short story collection Bones here.
Review by Ross Jeffery
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