Shelter for the Damned
JournalStone (February 26, 2021)
Reviewed by Ray Palen
Mike Thorn clearly knows his horror. For his Master’s thesis in English Literature, he analyzed the role of epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Clever readers will be able to notice his quick mention of this classic film in his latest novel, SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED.
Thorn steps into territory often used by horror authors, that being the use of teenagers as the principal characters in the story. However, most often it comes across sounding like adults trying to get inside the mind and vocabulary of a teen. It takes authors like Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Dan Simmons or Richard Laymon to really do this right. I am pleased to say that the teen characters that carry the narrative here are all very believable.
It begins with a simple enough premise. Three high school buddies—Mark, Adam, and Scott—are bored on a typical small-town night and seeking a place where they can smoke cigarettes without being caught or seen. They find a shack literally by itself in the middle of a field. It resembles a small, broken-down house, and initially the trio is hesitant to enter. Mark is the most fearless, and he steps inside the shack, which is completely empty, dark, and very creepy. They speculate on what the place could be—a home for bums, a sanctuary for Satan worshippers, etc… It is one of those places that is something different to whoever seeks it out. Let us just say it immediately has a hold on Mark, and he will become obsessed with going there after this first visit.
Mark is going through a troubled period at school where he is one step away from expulsion, and a few fights with the slow-witted big lug in his class do not make him any more popular. His friends, Adam and Scott, begin to worry about him and want to hang out with him less and less. His parents are upset with his recent change in behavior and have grounded him. This, however, will not stop his middle-of-the-night visits to the shack. You see, Mark has found a real friend inside the shack, a being that often appears to him as a mirror image of himself—and that mirror image starts to take revenge out on the people in Mark’s life that he has problems with. The major issue is that the shack is hungry for more souls and has an insatiable desire for them. Mark is now stuck serving the dark lord of the shack, and there may be no escape for him.
SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is high-octane horror that really delivers while never being too predictable. Mike Thorn respects the genre and, as you can see by the accompanying Q&A, is a well-read student of horror, which means he has the foundation to do great things and this novel is a perfect start!