Friday, February 12, 2021

Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn


While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Cover art by Trevor Henderson.

Three boys enter a shack, and although they all seem to feel that it is more than it appears to be, one boy falls helplessly under it's control. I can't say I ever figured out exactly what the shack is or how it chooses it's victims.

Mark has always had a mean streak, a short fuse that is easily lit, and maybe that is why the shack has  latched on to him. After their initial discovery, Mark's friends don't want to revisit the shack, but Mark is compelled to return, to the point of obsession. As Mark's friendships begin to deteriorate, so too does his school and home life, making the shack feel like the only good thing in his world. I felt that one reason Mark may have been easily swayed was his own proclivity towards violence but another may have been the implied physical abuse at the hands of his father. Although one of his friends is obviously abused repeatedly at home, the shack does not have the same hold over him so my theory could be wrong. It's possible that in addition to a supernatural element Mark may have suffered some form of mental illness because there were times I was not sure if he was hallucinating things that I thought his mother should have seen, if it were real. I guess this left me with more questions than answers, as to whether this is a dark descent into murder and madness, or a supernatural entity taking control.

4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

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About the author

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours and the novel Shelter for the Damned (coming soon from JournalStone). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including VastarienDark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast and Tales to TerrifyHis film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageSeventh Row and Vague Visages.

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