Nowhere is a vast labyrinth beneath the ground of Indiana, home to many children who only know darkness. Unbeknownst to them, they are property of artist Thomas Krieg, and are the living embodiment of his newest masterpiece. McPherson is a fan, and his only wish is to view Krieg’s work first-hand. Signing up for the opportunity of a lifetime, McPherson gets more than he bargained for when he meets another artist, the mysterious Mister No One.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I suspect that Cushing will always be a pleasure to read, as from this moment I’m beginning to notice a certain ingenuity when it comes to her work. With themes that are daring as well as disturbing, she excels in bringing disquieting imagery to life through flawless storytelling. I enjoyed this novella a great deal, and because of its short length the experience was all the more intense – there was no slog to reach those pivotal moments because, let’s face it, it couldn’t afford to let a sentence go to waste. There’s always the problem of pieces like this being too short however, and the consequence of such is that you can’t really get attached to characters in the same way as a three-hundred page novel. I’m of the opinion that the same rules shouldn’t apply; stories like this are swift and purposeful, their intention to convey an idea with maximum effect in as little words as possible. Not everyone can do it well, but this author can.
Art is a topic I rarely come across in the horror genre, and Cushing invited the question of what could be considered art in the wider sense. Creativity in the form of paintings, sculptures and the like are traditional mediums, but art itself is subjective. A crazed mind will have a different concept of art, of entertainment, and so with Thomas Krieg and Mister No One, the boundaries were pushed to the extreme. They were two very difference individuals – as observed through their dialogue – vying over their own interpretation of artistic merit. I relished their back and forth, and was especially appreciative when ritualistic magic came into play.
I should mention that there was abuse toward children, and even though the scenes of their suffering were fleeting, they were definitely there to reiterate the unpleasantness of the matter at hand. The primary focus lay upon their tormentors, and given that my threshold for such content is pretty far-reaching, the brief segments of cruelty weren’t unbearable for me.
In conclusion: I didn’t expect Children of No One to be so thought-provoking, but it was by a sizeable degree. It integrated the mind of a sadist with the dark schemes of a nihilist, and whilst Cushing put many things into the pot, the resulting concoction was addictive. Recommended to those that value distinct works where the horror is more complex than blood and guts.
The dark seemed to soar over him and crawl under him and slither around him and gallop through him. The darkness seemed hungry for him, but not just him.
© Red Lace 2019
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