John Everson

Leisure Fiction
Paperback, 320 pages, $7.99
Review by Sheila Merritt

Sex and horror; sometimes it seems impossible to know where to draw the line when combining the themes, let alone just knowing where to draw the line when addressing either subject individually. To John Everson’s credit, in Sacrifice, the sequel to his Bram Stoker winning debut novel Covenant, he straddles the difficulty of this position in a satisfying manner. The kinky and sadistic sexuality is in harmony with the plot line. It is reminiscent of some of Clive Barker’s works, but the tone is very different. There’s some snappy repartee, and a connection between the reader and the characters; without the emotional detachment often prevalent in Barker’s tales.

Everson gives even the vilest characters some depth and dimension; they are easy to loathe, but comprehensible in their actions. An aspiring nun, for example, finds mystical revelations outside of Catholicism: There is still ritual and sacrifice, but the latter is much more literal in execution. Ariana, who is a lapsed Catholic in the extreme, is determined to bring to earth the demons known as the Curburide. The Curburide thrive on perversion; necrophilia, mutilation, sadomasochism. They are the spiritual children of the Marquis de Sade and Aleister Crowley (or some unholy hybrid of the two.)

The fascinating aspect of Ariana is that despite her horrific agenda, it is difficult not to be fascinated by her; someone so beautiful, bestial, and bizarre. She is joined in her goal by Jeremy, an intended victim with anger management issues. Ariana’s initial attempt to use him as an offering to the Curburide goes awry; Jeremy, titillated by torture, is liberated from any sense of morality in the process. The terrifying twosome work in tandem, leaving much mayhem in their wake.

Opposing them is the duo of Joe, a heroic fellow with a demon named Malachi inside his head, and Alex, a budding witch with a dark history: Alex killed and hacked to collops her abusive parents; she is depicted much like the character of Carrie in Stephen King’s novel of that name. The daughter of religious fanatics, Alex resembles Carrie right up to being imprisoned in an icon adorned closet/pantry by her zealot father. The brutal slaying of father and mother gives Alex an ambiguous edge to her personality; certainly she had cause, out of self defense, to kill them. Chopping up their bodies, however, gives this attractive young woman who communicates with ghosts, dangerous potential. She definitely can’t be defined as “an innocent” in her battle against the Curburide and their acolytes.

All the characters (including demon Malachi) have moral shadings and issues that make them very interesting. This helps to keep the multitude of perverted and highly gory sex scenes from appearing gratuitous. Given the plot, the kinks of the characters is essential in preventing the story from descending into horror porn. John Everson manages in Sacrifice to dispense buckets of blood, provide edgy perversity, and walk the tenuous tightrope of horror and sex without falling: It’s rather an amazing feat.

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