Title: The Worm and His Kings
Series: The Worm and His Kings: Book One
Author: Hailey Piper
Publisher: Off Limits Press
Length: 135 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Hailey Piper’s writing is vivid and exceptionally provocative. This book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, of course, and while the narrative is, at times, slow to the point, once the point was revealed, I was hooked.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: New York City, 1990
When you slip through the cracks, no one is there to catch you. Monique learns that the hard way after her girlfriend Donna vanishes without a trace.
Only after the disappearances of several other impoverished women does Monique hear the rumors. A taloned monster stalks the city’s underground and snatches victims into the dark.
Donna isn’t missing. She was taken.
To save the woman she loves, Monique must descend deeper than the known underground, into a subterranean world of enigmatic cultists and shadowy creatures. But what she finds looms beyond her wildest fears-a darkness that stretches from the dawn of time and across the stars.
Review: My first thought about this book is a confession: I had no idea what Cosmic Horror was until I looked it up. When I discovered it’s a category of horror used interchangeably with Lovecraftian Horror, well then, this story made sense in its otherwise opaque and impenetrable way.
Hailey Piper’s The Worm and His Kings is set in the underbelly of New York City, in the most literal meaning of the term, in a defunct subway tunnel where the homeless and overlooked are simply trying to survive in a world that has thrown them away. Monique, the narrator of the story, is a young transgender woman whose partner, Donna, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When Monique sees the being that has been disappearing people into a deeper underground unknown to the humans above, she screws her courage to the sticking place and follows in hopes of rescuing the woman she loves. What happens from there is allegory, weird and dangerous, and left me with a character whose courage was, itself, a protagonist of the story, and whose despair was palpable.
Upon discovering an underground cult that worships the Worm and makes Kings of ordinary mortals, Monique is thrown into a fever dream. Grasping the meaning of all the things she encounters in this fall down the rabbit hole into a dystopia where the Gray Maiden lurks, is for each reader to decipher. It is neither heaven nor hell, neither damnation nor salvation. Where Hailey Piper leaves readers in the end is head-spinning and the very definition of cryptic.
Piper’s writing is vivid and exceptionally provocative. There is a bit of body horror in this novella that, while off-page, is described in such excruciating clarity that I perceived Monique’s pain even though I’ve never experienced it myself. This book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, of course, and while the narrative is, at times, slow to the point, once the point was revealed, I was hooked.
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