Review Index

By MICHAEL LOUIS CALVILLO (Lachesis Publishing; 2007) 

Books like this are the reason I slog through so many ďundergroundĒ horror novels, most of which leave me cold.  The fact is thereís usually a damn good reason major publishers pass on those books that debut in expensive trade paperback editions from companies youíve never heard of, yet every once in a while an indie horror novel appears that actually lives up to its billing.  Such is the case with I WILL RISE, from the Canadian outfit Lachesis (who also issued the book in multiple ebook formats--go to  Itís the first novel by Michael Louis Calvillo, and one of the most promising debuts Iíve encountered in some time.  Why the major publishers passed up this mind-bender Iíll never understand. 

     Than again, maybe I do have an idea of why Calvilloís book went the indie route.  Itís everything weíve come to expect from underground horror and then some: defiantly idiosyncratic, shocking, subversive, ambitious and one-of-a-kind.  A Beach Read it definitely isnít!  I sincerely hope I WILL RISE doesnít get lost in the horror shuffle, as itís a cult waiting to be born. 

     Told in a first person stream-of-consciousness style vaguely reminiscent of authors like Chuck Palahniuk and Kathe Koja, itís the warped tale of the thirtyish Charles, a severely alienated, ugly, maladjusted virgin whoís prone to seizures and suffers from a weird hole in his left palm, an apparent birth defect.  When we first meet Charles heís working in a restaurant he plans to sabotage by spiking its flour supply with Ajax, being a perpetually self-pitying, revenge-seeking loser.  After about fifty pages Charlesís relentlessly anti-social mindset becomes positively suffocating (this guy makes Holden Caulfield seem like a choirboy), but then there occurs a most unexpected plot twist...

     Charles is caught breaking into the restaurant to carry out his nefarious deed and shot to death by cops.  Yet heís brought back to life by a Godlike force who gives him a mission: snuff out the ďhuman virusĒ, which the now-undead Charles can accomplish simply by touching people with his mutant left hand.  24 hours later those people will all die, but not before passing on the killing touch themselves, thus spreading death across the globe.

     Charles is assisted in his quest by Annabelle, an equally disenfranchised misanthrope who contacts Charles through her dreams, projecting a three dimensional image of herself as a hot, scantily clad babe to help him along.  In real life, however, Annabelle is a dumpy blind woman who lives in squalor with her mother; her interaction with Charles humanizes him somewhat, giving him second thoughts about his mission to destroy humanity.  This newfound compassion, while directly inspired by Annabelle, complicates their burgeoning romance somewhat, as she remains hellbent on exterminating the human virus, and furthermore canít be touched by Charles lest she be killed like everyone else he comes into contact with.

     Thereís much more, of course, in an ever-mutating narrative that continually ratchets up the weirdness factor with a succession of impossible-to-predict twists and bizarre characters.  They include a five-year-old genius with ESP who accompanies Charles during the early stages of his odyssey, a gaggle of crazies who learn of Charlesí mission through shared dreams and become determined to do something about it, and Allen Michael, a slimy TV personality who becomes the focus of Charlesí rampage, especially after he discovers Annabelle may have been psychically two-timing him with Michael.

     What precisely should we make of this wild ride?  Frankly Iím not sure.  What I do know is that itís written with real assurance and a slip-streamy, pop-inflected vernacular that often gives it the feel of a psychotic nightmare--or perhaps a near-death hallucination a la William Goldingís PINCER MARTIN or J.G. Ballardís UNLIMITED DREAM COMPANY.  Whatever it is, I WILL RISE is unique and oddly compelling, one of the finest, most challenging novels of 2007.  Donít let it pass you by.