Title: Subcutanean 36619
Author: Aaron A. Reed
Length: 251 Pages
Category: Horror, Suspense
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: Aaron A. Reed tells an overwhelmingly compelling story. His writing is impactful, at times almost lyrical, and impressively vivid. For fans of the Horror genre, this story plays out in the imagination in some frightening and suspenseful and stunning ways.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Insecure college senior Orion loves music, books, and his best friend Niko. When the two of them find a secret basement in their rambling old off-campus house, at first Orion’s thrilled. It’s another secret to share, an adventure to maybe, at last, bring them closer together.
But something’s wrong: the basement doesn’t end. Blandly decorated halls stretch on for miles past peeling wallpaper, empty bedrooms, and countless stairwells always leading down. Soon they realize Downstairs is a snarled tangle of possibilities. Something down there multiplies everything: architecture, emotions, even people.
Together they must navigate an increasingly dangerous labyrinth filled with two-faced doppelgangers, treacherous architecture, and long-buried secrets. Most dangerous of all is Orion’s consuming obsession: somewhere down there, is there a Niko who loves him back?
Subcutanean is a permutational novel: the text can be rendered in millions of different ways. This is version 36619, one of several available on traditional platforms. Your book contains instructions to unlock your own wholly unique digital version, with different words, sentences, or even entire scenes.
Review: Subcutanean 36619 is an as “down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass” book as I’ve read since . . . well . . . Alice fell down the rabbit hole into the Upsidedown and went through the looking glass into the Backwards. In fact, as I’m sitting down to write this, I can’t say with any sort of confidence that the book I read is the same one you’d read, if you choose to read it at all, as Subcutanean 30287 also exists as an option, and I have no idea in what ways it may differ. What I am certain of, however, is that author Aaron A. Reed (a Lambda Literary Awards 2021 finalist) gave me the perfect sort of twisted, mind-bending, adrenaline-pumping story I love the Horror genre for, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was supremely tempted to read the other version too.
Orion (aka Ryan) and his best friend—his only friend, if we’re being honest—Niko, are early-twenties college students who’ve recently rented rooms in a house that, frankly, is nowhere I’d want to live, but based upon one subtle, surprising hint, it doesn’t exist in our version of reality, so there’s that comfort. The house in this permutation has a history (the way it’s delivered! Phew . . .) which I can only assume influences some of the minor details of the story while not impacting the overall outcome. Although, if I’m being honest, I can’t say that with any sort of confidence either, based on the Author Notes at the end. What I do know is that the “Downstairs” accessed by a staircase beneath Ryan’s bed is a labyrinth of alternate realities, time bending, and endless potentials for death-by-doppelganger, and drowning, and falling into the bottomless unknown, and no few failures along the way that kept me turning pages to see where in the hells-below Reed was going with this. Discovering he’s a game designer, then, made a lot of sense, because this story could so easily be translated into a video game where control over the characters would offer a multitude of varied experiences for the player.
One thing we do know, which I at first thought a flaw but later scolded myself for questioning the decision, is that one version of Ryan (the true version?) survives this madness. The story is told from his point of view, from sometime in the future, a storytelling decision I assumed would limit some of the suspense—the will he or won’t he make it?, and then knowing ahead of time that he’d make it out alive—but that’s not at all the case. That particular detail only added to some of the more poignant moments in the story between him and Niko. Or the various Nikos, as was the case. Given that there are several versions of Ryan and Niko in the story, the emotional impacts (the anger, the fear, the confusion, the unrequited love, the perhaps requited love?) are as profuse as the labyrinthine hallways and rooms and passages in the Downstairs.
Aaron A. Reed tells an overwhelmingly compelling story. His writing is impactful, at times almost lyrical, and impressively vivid. For fans of the Horror genre, this story plays out in the imagination in some frightening and suspenseful and stunning ways. We all know there’s a certain synesthesia to reading, those sense impressions that impact the experience in a manner that is unique to each reader. Subcutanean 36619 is a full-on sensory reading experience by every definition of the term.
You can buy Subcutanean 36619 here:
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