Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson) roared onto the horror scene with his novel THE TROOP, quickly following up on that success with THE DEEP, THE ACOLYTE and most recently LITTLE HEAVEN.
His books hit me in a unique way, a completely mixed reaction. The writing is always terrific. The pages fly by. The dialogue is generally good. The monster element is the real star of the show. It’s fantastic, especially in THE TROOP. Those freaking worms. He packed so much skin-crawling horror out of one simple device that it’s clear the guy’s a genius at the horror game.
On the other hand, for some reason I never really connect with his characters, who strike me as stereotypes, and the books often feel kitchen sinked to me. THE DEEP starts off with a horrible pandemic that is largely tangential to the plot; the second half is basically one very well-written, horrifying but ultimately fatiguing set piece after another. About 80% into it, completely numbed, I was flipping pages past brilliant horror scenes just to get to the end. Otherwise, there are plenty of conventions popularized by Stephen King, resulting in books that read like King on crack.
LITTLE HEAVEN is his most ambitious work to date and probably his best. A big book with plenty of action, plenty of horror, an intriguing evil, and parallel timelines that come together nearly flawlessly to double the tension and final impact.
The novel begins with introduction of three major characters, Micah, Ebenezer and Minerva, outlaws who decide to join forces after a gunfight. As I said, their story is told in two timelines. In the past, they’re hired by a woman to travel deep into the wilderness to Little Heaven, a community built by a religious movement similar to a cult, and maybe rescue her nephew. They arrive to find the community under siege by an ancient evil that wants them all. In the present, they must return to the black rock overlooking the site to confront the evil one last time.
Again, I didn’t quite connect with the characters, whom I found unlikable. But Cutter does his magic, sweeping me, a horror snob, through his epic. Every night I returned to its pages to see what happened next, finding the narrative, story development, descriptions and the antagonist all executed brilliantly.
If you like mass market horror, Cutter’s a must read, and LITTLE HEAVEN is one of his best.