So, since it is the holidays (at the time of writing), what better way to celebrate than to read some nihilistic horror? That’s why today’s book is the fantastic Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day.
Grind Your Bones to Dust:
A surveyor finds himself pursued by flesh-eating donkeys in the furthest reaches of Oregon's desert; a mass-murderer leaves the sanctity of his mountain home to pursue a long-lost love, his guide an otherworldly raven possessed by a 19th century American humourist; in nearby Klamath Falls, two estranged childhood friends set off to find a missing father with the help of two aging cowboys; and, a prisoner in her own home sees a vision of death and knows there is no escape.
Pain is proselytizing.
Death is the one, true faith.
And everyone worships in their due time.
The Gates of Nihil are wide open and waiting to... Grind Your Bones to Dust.
Might be a spoiler or two in here so if you want a pristine reading, stop reading this and go and read the book instead, it is a fantastic piece of horror art in writing!
First of all, let’s talk about that cover, it is no secret that I am a big fan of Daniele Serra and his amazing artwork. So, whenever I see a cover he has made, then that just piques my interest all the more, I am not saying all the books that feature a Daniele Serra cover are great, but I am saying so far, I haven’t read a bad one!
Secondly, the book and the story itself, the story is spread over four parts. In the first part we follow a surveyor named Louis, seeking refuge at a small farm from a small herd of flesh-eating donkeys…... I know what people are thinking now, “donkeys? Donkeys cannot be scary, they are natures little tea cozies, what the hell man?” well, Nicholas Day have managed to make the four donkeys in this story into the most terrifying asses ever to be put on paper, the worst part is that there is nothing overtly scary with them, no fangs, no spiky hooves and no shiny glowing eyes, they just trample you to death and eats you, and it works, it shouldn’t, but it does!
Now you think this book is a creature feature containing killer donkeys. Well, yes and no, yes it has killer donkeys. And no, it is not a creature feature, the donkeys are just a small part of this book, because in part two we are introduced to the surveyor Louis’s brother James, James can be described as a fully-fledged maniacal psychopathic mass murderer, he puts the psychopath in, well psychopath…... He sees himself as a priest of death (and he probably is, don’t think there is a special seminary school for that line of priesthood), we follow him looking for his estranged wife Ruth, whom he thinks have run off with his brother. On his journey, we see him rape and kill cops, annihilate families, play Russian roulette with a priest and take care of a poodle (no matter how evil one is, one can always be nice to dogs!), all while being accompanied by a talking deformed raven named Billings, so nothing weird going on there!
What this part of the book does really well, is James reasonings for what he is doing, usually when one has a nihilistic theme and/or reasoning from any characters or groups, well then they have a tendency to be a bit, for a lack of a better word silly or edgy, i.e. they try too hard and fail miserably! But in Grind Your Bones to Dust, James is well reasoned and eloquent enough to kind of being a bit convincing, and he really should not be convincing! But this just shows the talent of Nicholas Day’s writing! Makes me glad he is not a cult leader!
Part three of the book, in this part we follow Nicky, trying to find out what happened to his father that disappeared on a survey trip (sounds familiar?), he enlists the help of his childhood friend Daniel, who also have a familiar relation to persons of the survey trip. They hire two more men to help track down the missing survey team and to discover the truth of what happened. Most part of this story is centred around the four men sitting around a campfire sharing a bottle of whiskey, as the bottle is passed around, the men open up and share their life experiences (some talk more than others), it is a fantastic piece of character work! But as the bottle takes its rounds, the atmosphere changes and we are into horror territory again, almost without us realizing what is happening.
In the final fourth part, we follow Ruth, the woman who is waiting for the day her estranged strange and murderously husband will find her and end her. Will not say to much of this part of the story in fear of spoiling it, but it is a fitting end for this book!
In conclusion: this book has all what you can ever want from a horror novel: it is unsettling. Steeped in atmosphere. It is violent on the verge of being gratuitous, but not over the top. It features believable and well-rounded characters, both of the good and the evil kind. Great dialogue. Fantastic artwork, devilish donkeys and a nihilistic narrative that is just about right and not overdone! Each of the four stories have a different feel to them, they each feel unique even though they are all interwoven and connected.
In the end, for me this is one of my top horror read of the year (a year filled with lots of amazing horror) this is an impressive first novel from Nicholas Day, this book squeezes more well-crafted horror in 200 pages than some writers manage to write in a lifetime!