[Book Review] Grisly ‘NightWhere’ Not for the Squeamish

With six successful horror novels notched into his belt, Bram Stoker Award-winner John Everson is no stranger to sex and violence, but the BDSM-addled NightWhere is easily his most graphic book to date. In Everson’s dark, harrowing tale, a bondage enthusiast gets herself deeply involved with a cultish S&M nightclub, compelling her crazily devoted boyfriend to endure tests of torture and humiliation in an attempt to rescue her. It’s a “love story” for pain freaks, and Everson handles the subject matter with a deft touch, but be warned, this is some very strong stuff. Readers who dig gross-out horror will love the hell out of this one. Samhain Publishing isn’t releasing the trade paperback until October 2, but the e-book is currently available from Amazon. Read on for the full review.

In 1981’s Danse Macabre, Stephen King wrote, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I‘m not proud.” Although NightWhere has some undeniably horrifying moments, it’s obvious that author John Everson has decided to go for the gross-out. His narrative starts out tawdry and dirty, as young couple Mark and Rae receive a personal invitation to NightWhere, a pain-and-bondage-themed nightclub, and things only get worse from there. While Rae is totally into the whips, chains, and hooks, Mark isn’t nearly as enthusiastic about the whole pain aspect of S&M, and eventually Rae is visiting NightWhere alone.

Everson depicts Rae’s journey through NightWhere––from The Red, to The Black, to the mysterious Night Mother––with escalating details of orgiastic sex, rampant beatings, and gut-wrenching violence. And yet, considering the actions taking place, Everson handles the material with considerable restraint. If he wanted to, he could certainly push even harder toward the gross-out. As a result of this restraint, there’s a forbidden appeal to NightWhere, a guilty desire to find out what happens next. And yet….I still found a couple of scenes actively unpleasant.

That’s not Everson’s fault. In fact, it may have been his intention. Aggressively violent horror fiction like The Summer I Died ore The Girl Next Door has never really been my bag. But while reading NightWhere I nevertheless felt a strange sort of admiration for Everson. He knows exactly what he’s doing here, knows exactly what buttons he’s pushing. The dialogue is crisp, the plotting is fast-paced––it’s a very confident piece of work, regardless of the subject matter. And is it scary? Yes, at times NightWhere is very scary…because this is a novel that can go anywhere. And it does.

Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Skulls

NightWhere Cover