Epeolatry Book Review: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
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Title: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke And Other Misfortunes
By: Eric LaRocca
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 6th, September, 2022
Synopsis: A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.
A couple isolate themselves on a remote island in an attempt to recover from their teenage son’s death, when a mysterious young man knocks on their door during a storm…
And a man confronts his neighbour when he discovers a strange object in his back yard, only to be drawn into an ever-more dangerous game.
Three devastating, beautifully written horror stories from one of the genre’s most cutting-edge voices.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
First thing’s first—this is horror. Read it knowing you’ll gloss over animal cruelty, infanticide, torture, et all. Yes, I said gloss over—as if it’s no big deal and hey let’s just roll with it. That’s how this author makes horror truly terrorizing. With that in mind…
LaRocca’s work includes three stories—his original novella Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, and two short additions; “The Enchantment”, and “You’ll Find It’s Like That All Over”.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke
The novella starts off sweet, and twists into unholy and gruesome corruption. Just like a horror read should. In the original acknowledgements, the author calls this novella “a bizarre fantasy of manipulation and depravity” written in five days while pushed “to dangerous areas … of creative Armageddon.” After reading this story, I totally get it.
Agnes and Zoe, aka Agnes in Wonderland and Crushed Marigolds and aka Drudge and Sponsor, commence through posts on a fictional website community board. I read this in one sitting, unable to put it down despite its disturbing content. An apple peeler is offhandedly mentioned as a magical instrument, and as one of the few things the main character has left from her grandmother. I buy and sell stuff on Facebook Marketplace, and so to me this story is like a Facebook Marketplace sale gone unspeakably wrong. But this is not about an apple peeler. It’s about loneliness, codependency, exploitation, and unhealthy relationships. It’s like poor Agnes opened herself up to a stranger who sucked Agnes into a world of cruel compromise. When I finished this particular read, I thought about its ending, and this was my take-away; if someone has thought it up, no matter that it’s fiction and no matter how horrible, then in reality someone else has already acted upon it. In other words, someone out there has had a Little Christ.
If you read this book, consider this your warning. You might not be able to put it down, you will probably be appalled, and you might not even like yourself for having read it. But that, dear reader, is horror.
Outstandingly heartbreaking, especially in the beginning where LaRocca’s main character greets her depressed son. My heart dropped even further when I saw we were in a world where characters are told that the afterlife does not exist. He’s heavy on the grief, and perhaps this is the emotional grab LaRocca intended. The story summoned vibes of my favorite movie, 2016’s A Dark Song meets The Shining meets coastal horror.
“You’ll Find It’s Like That All Over”
Gerald Fowler finds a bone fragment in the snow by his house. Pages later, his neighbor asks, “Are you a gambling man, Mr. Fowler?” I don’t gamble. A similar nod to the theme from Things Have Gotten Worse, readers are asked to consider, how far would you be willing to go?
I remember a time in Atlantic City where an older man gave me a dollar because he got tired of my denial statements. I didn’t want to offend him by saying no. So, I took the money and played roulette. I won a hundred dollars. Totally anti-climactic. Yes, I offered him the winnings and he politely turned me down (probably not wanting to offend), but I was done and left victorious. I promptly spent my winnings the next day on a pair of shoes.
“You’ll Find It’s Like That All Over” is NOT that anticlimactic, simplistic premise, dear reader. It’s horror. And you might have to think about what you’ve read, and wonder if you “get it”. That’s the reason I give this collection a 5, but to some horror fans, thinking outside the box is too much work. This isn’t Hallmark, y’all.
Horror is emotional. It’s a limit-pusher. Like a rollercoaster, it has scary ups and downs, but the quest is a heightened sensory thrill and when it’s all over, you’ll want to experience it again.
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Catherine Jordan is the new review coordinator for Horrortree.com. She’s a horror movie fan and a horror novelist, although she edits and writes in many genres. Ms. Jordan has been featured in a variety of anthologies, on-line publications, and print magazines. It was her pleasure to serve as judge for the Bram Stoker Award and for the ITW Young Adult Award. Catherine also facilitates writing courses and critique groups. She credits her five children with inspiring her writing material.