Ages ago I read the book Fight Club – not the movie, but the actual book. I reference this because The Cadaver of Gideon Cathcart and Fight Club have disjointed writing styles but both pack a gut punch. To me, the style served to frame a disturbingly enthralling story. I like to imagine that at some point surgeons or doctors working long hours for days on end and seeing horrific situations do turn loopy – making the prose apt.
As far as what the story is about, the first major chunk builds the relationship between characters but primarily focuses on Gideon and Zach while involving other staff and Zach’s growing family. As a backdrop, there’s a haunted hospital that plagues both doctors and staff and has been doing so for years – all this before actually killing Gideon. I liked this part and wished the book hadn’t started with the punch line seen in the blurb and opening chapter. The fatalistic reminders helped me know what was coming up, it also kind of ruined a bit of the story and mitigated some of the horror element.
To be clear, in most cases, there are two types of horror; jump scares which permeate video game plot and television, and the slow budding type that sneaks up on you and starts breathing in your ear. For writing, slow horror can be fantastic. In this story, a slow horror, there was pulse thumping moments that left me uneasy about venturing into a hospital again – ever. I had to walk away once or twice to separate myself from the characters and calm down, which is a good sign (and Jesus, the ending). Once you lose yourself in the flow this prose works well to build an atmosphere of an increasingly scattered person trying to keep it together as the haunting plot rolls onward.
For my own part, I went through all the emotions normally associated with good horror. Worry about the character(s), a sickening feeling as it went on and the main character twisted around, along with even more trepidation trying to predict how it would all end. When it finally came, the ending was both fitting and bothersome. As a warning regarding this book – it’s a true horror that leads the main character along a pure descent into viral madness with no escape, and the slide is not quick.
If you like the idea of ‘Paranormal Activity’ (the first movie) meets ‘The Ring’ set in a hospital, then check out the ‘look inside’ and decide from there. So, again a reminder – this isn’t a happy story – it’s horror. My final rating is based on successfully messing with my emotions, a dislike for too much foreshadowing, and ensuring I won’t sleep tonight.