Hideous Creatures by S. E. Lister – 4 out of 5 stars
Published by: Old Street Publishing
Released: 13th May 2014
Buy it from: Hive
In a nutshell: Hideous Creatures is…
Arthur, the awkward-looking son of an English aristocrat, flees England for the New World on a slave ship. On arriving on the East Coast, he’s drawn to the strange, tatooed Shelo and the two of them undertake a life changing trip to the interior of the continent.
He saw me from across the world, when I was a gentleman in a fine house and had never set foot upon this continent. He knew me like nobody else, and he called me to himself.
This is definitely an odd novel. It’s not something you feel comfortable reading, not a curl up by the fire book on a Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure. But for all that, it’s still strangely compelling. I think there might be a little pathos at work here – the vicarious enjoyment of the freakshow, safe in the knowledge that you’re cosy in your normal, workaday life. This is probably why it puts me in mind of some of the older, classic gothic works, where a new disaster seems to befall the hero in every chapter.
Shelo is wonderful as the mysterious leader of the trip. Even after finishing the book, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. He ended with his mask intact. I’m not even sure if Shelo is a man in the normal sense, or a force of nature, or even the manifestation of Arthur’s fevered imagination.
My only disappointment really, was Arthur himself. While we get a clear physical description of his appearance and mannerisms, I didn’t really feel like we ever got to know him. He was distant and didn’t seem to make that much emotional progress as a character. It seemed that he was the catalyst for things changing around him, rather than being the focus himself. And I do think this was a terrible shame because it left me feeling like a piece of the puzzle was missing at the end.
Fans of 19th Century Gothic literature looking for a fresh, modern reworking.