Pearl by Josh Malerman

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‘Pearl’ by Josh Malerman is a masterpiece, that’s right, I said it. Formally known as ‘On This, The Day of The Pig’ and given a limited edition release, ‘Pearl’ is a rebranding of sorts, it is now publishing through Del Rey Books and I for one am thrilled by this news, as it means a whole host of other unsuspecting individuals will be able to grab a copy and enjoy one of the finest horror yarns I’ve have the pleasure of reading this year.

Josh Malerman is becoming a staple of the horror genre, with releases such as ‘Bird Box’, ‘A House At The Bottom of a Lake’, ‘Malorie’ and ‘Unbury Carol’ to name a few. And I have to say I’m a huge fan of his work, after Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, HG Wells and Cormac McCarthy I think Malerman is the next author in line of who I’ve read the most work of.

Malerman is somewhat of a chameleon when it comes to his work, each piece is completely different, each book takes the reader to new places and sends them on a journey of discovery that lives long in the memory – but also, in my humble opinion each work is exceptional, and the man is only getting started, he’s a writing machine and more works are on the cards (when I interviewed him recently he said he has a large box full of manuscripts waiting to be born).

Malerman usually treads the thin line of horror like a tightrope walker, he navigates us through the horror without stuffing our faces in the viscera or the macabre events that are playing out on the page, but with ‘Pearl’ he holds our faces in the filth. He opens the barn and throws us inside where the horrors and nightmares wait with snapping jaws and an insatiable hunger, as we bang at the door to be let out, Malerman is on the outside with his shoulder against the door, barricading us into the nightmare that is on offer. And I tell you… I bloody loved it.

Malerman goes full blown horror with ‘Pearl’ and it is a masterpiece of revulsion and dread – even more so when you think about the premise of the book, the premise is almost laughable (a psychic pig terrorizing a farm and making people do the unimaginable), but laugh at your own peril because this one will worm its way into your heart, mind and soul and ravage you, there is no way to escape the clutches of Pearl – if you’re lucky you’ll make it out screaming, if you’re not lucky Pearl will make you sing, he makes everyone sing in the end.

So, yes this is the story about Pearl, a large male pig with a bad eye, but this bad eye is actually the one that sees the world, the one that peers into the minds of those unsuspecting people who should so happen come into his world, his farm, his lair. Pearl is able to control people, he’s able to make them do horrific things, not because he makes them do it, no, he makes them want to do it. It’s a strange concept, but one that Malerman never loses control of, the premise is batshit crazy but in Malerman’s hands he orchestrates a macabre symphony that one can’t help but be bewitched by and if you surrender yourself to the fact that this is fiction (where anything is possible if we let the author lead us there) then the payoff is huge in this creature / animal horror feature.

‘Pearl’ reads like the demented offspring of ‘Animal Farm’ (George Orwell) and ‘The Rats’ (James Herbert) with a dash of Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’ (in the way that Malerman is able to give voice to an animal, much like how Benchley was able to put us in the mind of the shark). There are some allegories here, but one in particular I could see was that this could be a discussion around the slaughtering of animals, for our greed and consumption – over farming etc. and Pearl breaking loose of his pen, and his subsequent reign of terror being his swansong, which in turn forces humans to become the new cattle, to be butchered and consumed.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that the incidents pretty much happen over one day, and Malerman’s writing keeps us prisoners to this twisted twenty-four hour period whether we like it or not. The story starts with a very unfortunate incident on a farm where a boy slaughters a pig, he didn’t want to but Pearl made him want to, Pearl made him sing for him. Word soon gets out that a boy butchered a pig and that the strangest thing of all is that the boy said the pig made him do it – so a group of teenagers head on out to this farm to see the crazy pig for themselves, which sets the plot of this story into overdrive, the tension of the piece keeps on building until there is no shackling it, no escaping the fate that awaits those that Pearl makes sing.

There are so many gruesome scenes in this book, which are put across with such fine detail that on a few occasions Malerman made me squirm in my seat. There is something deeply bewitching in the prose and the energy that Malerman writes in ‘Pearl’ that doesn’t let up, it sinks its teeth into you in the first few chapters and holds you firmly in its snout as it thrashes its head and you pinwheel around like a ragdoll in its unforgiving maw until you read that final page.

I also have to applaud Malerman for his work on bringing the character of Pearl to life – he seems to have crafted a deeply disturbing mind and one that I could wholly believe was a pig, but also a thinking, breathing, revenge filled entity at the same time, which is a masterstroke of brilliance. The chapters from Pearl’s point of view (almost Pearl’s stream of consciousness) were always a delight to discover and in these intense glimpses we discover how he has come to be the way he is, how he sees the world and how he will overcome the world… how he will make everyone sing, sing for Pearl.

‘Pearl’ is like nothing you have ever read before, it is a nightmare on the page, it is horror, it is pain, it is suffering and it is utterly beguiling. Malerman again (although this is a rebranding of a previous title) shows that his imagination knows no bounds and the man can write horror with the best of them, and this offering in particular further solidifies Malerman in my opinion, as one of the most exciting and original horror writers working today.

What Herbert did for rats, Malerman does for pigs – prepare to have nightmares and pass on the odd bacon sandwich once in a while.

Sing for me… sing for Pearl.

Pearl is published by Del Rey Books

Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman is the author of BIRD BOX and the singer/songwriter for the band THE HIGH STRUNG.

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