Loathsome, Dark, and Deep
November 27, 2010
Price: $3.99 Kindle Edition
Review by Darkeva
Plot Synopsis: After months of silence from the H&P Lumber and Pulp logging camp, strange raving madmen have wandered out of the woods near the Lewis River. Civil War veteran Henry Barlow hasn’t carried a gun since his wife’s brutal murder, a memory he drowns nightly with bourbon and whiskey. When reports of the strange goings on at the Lewis River camp reach H&P, they send Barlow and a small band of armed mercenaries upriver to investigate. As the days pass and things get stranger, Barlow must confront the phantoms of his past, his alcoholism, and the dark hearts of men perverted by power and greed. Most of all, he must find a will to live in order for he and his team to get out of the woods alive.
The Review: Loathsome, Dark, and Deep introduces us to the main character, Henry Barlow, who is mourning the loss of his deceased wife, Maggie – a point that author Polson returns to several times during the course of the novel, which is set in the Old South and has a Civil War vibe. Fans of the era are in for a treat.
Things get off to a depressing start, and I’m not gonna lie to you – it doesn’t really get much better for Henry at any point. In fact, things just keep getting worse for him. But the worse things get, the more interesting the novel becomes. At first, Henry will strike you as the typical “I’m a cowboy with a scar on my face and a chip on my shoulder” type but he’s actually much deeper than that, and you’ll see a lot of great character development when you go further into the novel.
Although the novel’s pace lags at first, it really gets going once the main plot is established and Henry embarks on a voyage down the Lewis River with a group of men to investigate strange goings on. They travel to an island and find men who Henry calls “Ruined Men” – zombies with a clever twist – and as you read further, the characterization improves significantly, not just of Henry, but of the other characters such as the Native American, John, who could easily have fallen prey to racial stereotypes.
It’s a cleverly thought out survival novel that turns into a “search for a man who can answer our questions” novel, with Henry taken prisoner by a fellow named Curt who can explain the presence of the zombie-like “Ruined Men.”
When we finally meet Curt, it turns out there’s an even more important psycho behind him, a man named Dr. Scheller, who treated the Ruined Men when they first started to get sick. We then get the answers as to how the outbreak spread. Hint: turns out it was on purpose. And for an even sicker intent than you can imagine. I won’t spoil anything here, but when you find out how Scheller and Curt engineered this sinister outbreak, you’ll be horrified to discover that their master plan is an idyllic “Island of Doctor Moreau” type for a new “race,” if you can call the monsters that.
With shades of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and highly appealing to fans of Max Brooks’ World War Z and its epistolary “documentary style” narrative, Loathsome is an absorbing read.