Recently fired from his job, Antoine DeWitt still has a family to support, so when a winning Money Carlo ticket is discovered in his mail, he can’t help the small amount of hope that his luck has turned around – five thousand dollars would help a great deal. Making his way to the car dealership to receive his prize, the last thing he expected would be to end up trapped underground, and in the company of things only nightmares could conjure.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
Broken Shells was a thrilling piece that simultaneously delved into a monster lair while voicing some legitimate issues such as financial struggles and the discontent of family life. This was my second experience of Hicks’ work, and it’s surprising how much he packs into these novellas – when I think back, I recall a grisly adventure that seemed more lengthy, but the reality was it came to just over a hundred pages. Antoine DeWitt was a man trying to get by, thrown into a very inhuman situation where the chances of survival were slim. Throughout his attempt at escape, the reader is privy to his restlessness in life and at home, which made him a sympathetic character – look, we all have those sort of thoughts, what ifs that we’re ashamed of, and sometimes it takes a push to recognise what it is we should cherish. I absolutely appreciate when effort is put into the on-page personalities, to make them feel more real, even when there’s limited space to do so. The overall highlight, though, were the creepy crawlies of nightmares. Hicks used the setting – their underground domain – to build a claustrophobic atmosphere before all-out hell broke loose. Scenes were graphic and gruesome in all the best possible ways, but I don’t want to say too much, as it’s better to learn about them, as well as witness them in their vicious splendour, through the storytelling itself.
The ending had to have the biggest punch in the gut, and despite it being grim, I liked it as it gave me some feelings. With reading, I’m always looking to be affected emotionally, and it certainly did that. I never would’ve even guessed that was how it was going to go, I think I was completely caught up in the carnage and so I had a shock once I comprehended what was happening.
In conclusion: Topical and monster-munching crazy, Broken Shells was bleak in more ways than one. The protagonist became an unwitting sacrifice to a nest of man-eating beasts, yet he refused to accept the cards dealt to him, and I enjoyed every moment. I wanted him to succeed in the battle to survive while he underwent personal dilemmas; character development blended in with everything else you’d expect from a creature-feature, including a great amount of gore. I had a good time, and that ending really did leave an impression.
He had become a quick study in the horrors of the unknown and the ephemeral dangers tucked away in the oppressive confines of the black.
© Red Lace 2020