Title: Hell Spring
Author: Isaac Throne
Book Length: 374 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction, Horror
Read Start Date: July 31, 2022
Read Finish Date: September 30, 2022
Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.
An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.
Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?
Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?
My Review: I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description of the book was so great that I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I just finished writing my first novel, so I know how much work and effort goes into something like this, but Hellspring just wasn’t resonating with me enough to say that I loved it. I did like it though!
The first chapter was a little strange to say the least and was almost a complete turn off for me. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it to be a little disgusting.
In short, we find ourselves in a cavern of sorts where hell hound type creatures live and dine on the souls of the damned. In the center of the cavern is a giant engorged penis (yes, that’s right) that is leaking ejaculate and is ready to blow its load (yes, you read that correctly). We get multiple sentences / images revolving around the penis and ejaculate. For example: “The gigantic head flattened on top as it engorged with the juice it would eventually spill over the arena and all within it.” And “A geyser of milky yellowish goo suspended inside a sticky transparent gel spewed high into the orange sky above the arena. It separated in mid-air and rained down globs upon all within.” I can’t think of a more appropriate time for the barf emoji.
At the end of the first chapter, a hell hound escapes the ejaculate into the “real world”, where she takes on the form of Marilyn Monroe. The year is 1955, and the biggest storm of the century is about to erupt. Marilyn is hungry and she needs to feed. But where can she find the sin riddled souls she is used to eating?
Beginning in Chapter 2 we start learning about the characters who eventually end up in Beard’s General Store (they are trapped there by the flood with Marilyn). Once we are in the general store, we do not leave for the rest of the book — all of the main aspects of the book take place there while the flood waters are rising outside. Many of the characters have committed recent “sins” for which they feel guilty, which gives Marilyn exactly what she needs.
The book is descriptive and well written, especially the scenes of the horrible acts committed by Marilyn. As the reader I somehow felt trapped along with the characters in the General Store and just wanted out. What it lacked however was the tension — the characters didn’t feel this either. After a character was devoured by Marilyn, the memories of that person were erased from the mind of the remaining people. Therefore, the characters never felt the rising tension of “will I be next” because none of them knew what was going on.
This book is extremely character driven, and usually for books like that to catch my attention, the characters have to be great — they have to be people you can really root for and whose story you are invested in. What I liked about the character development was that Isaac Thorne spent time on each person and really fleshed out the characters. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find any of the characters in Hell Spring to be all that particularly interesting — I didn’t love them enough to really be invested in their fate — would they make it out alive? Would they be eaten by the Marilyn hell creature?
The above being said, other people really loved this book. In her blog Mullen Crafts, it is stated: “Time is taken to really detail each event that occurs, drawing out the horror to the maximum. Yet for all its horror, for all the loss, for all the lies, shame, evil and deceit, the struggle in the fight between good and evil, the story ends on an unexpected note. I have not read anything by Issac Thorne before, but this piece of excellent writing will definitely send me looking for more. An excellent horror read which will leave you questioning your human decency and how you would measure up!”
I also really like what Kay Hanifen has to say about the themes of the book and Peter’s character progression. “Fundamentally, Hell Spring is about shame and the fear of being judged. All these characters harbor guilt within them for things that they don’t necessarily need to feel guilty about, particularly guilt related to sex.
Though there are several main characters, the story is more Peter’s than anyone else’s, and I loved the way he grew and changed throughout the story, going from someone broken by self-loathing to an evangelical believer in a false prophet to a hero at the end. Though the trajectory of his arc places him as both the hero and a villain at points, his shift between these roles does not feel forced because it all ties together and culminates in a way that fits the character. He more than earns his ending.”
I gave this book 3 stars, however Hell Spring has an overall rating on Goodreads as of the writing of this post of 3.81, with 53% being in the 4 star range and 18% being in the 5 star range. It seems therefore that my assessment of the story falls a little below the average and maybe then I am an exception rather than the norm and/or maybe I haven’t given the book its due credit. You should read it and judge for yourself :).
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.