Horror Book Review: Periphery (Michael Winter)
“From the corner of your eye to the focus of your fear”
Written by Michael Winter, Periphery asks you to think about the times, when just out of the corner of your eye, you think you see something. Maybe it was just a shape, maybe you thought you saw something move or maybe it’s the neighbour’s cat going on a late night stroll. You puzzle over it briefly before dismissing it as nothing. After all, you can’t see anything now.
However, what you can’t shake off is the brief feeling of dread that came over you. As if something unspeakable and ancient had you in its icy death grip for just a split-second and you knew you were nothing to it.
We’ve all felt this at some time or another. That unexplained feeling of being watched, that unexplained feeling of creep and dread. That unexplained feeling that something exists out there, just on the periphery of our vision.
It is this that turns Andrew Tate’s life upside down. Well, even more upside down as the Fire & Rescue EMT is already dealing with many problems in his life. A recovering alcoholic, he is estranged from his wife after their daughter was badly burnt by a pot of boiling water. An accident that he blames himself for as he was drunk and not watching her.
Struggling to get through the days, Andrew is drawn into a hostage situation when the captor asks for him specifically. As an EMT, Andrew is way out of his comfort zone but ends up finding out that this man is connected to his father.
His father being a scientist who made a startling discovery. One that won’t just change the world as we know it but could in fact result in its destruction.
Monsters do exist and while most of us can’t see them, they can see us.
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will enjoy the monsters Michael Winter has created here. Tentacle covered beasts, spiky-covered demons and lumbering monsters from a time and place humanity has no concept of. These are the sights to drive a person mad and are given appropriately Lovecraftian names too (vetro offalate, squim, xalanthracoil).
The writer creates terrifying imagery that leaves plenty up to the imagination too. However, his strength lies in the writing of human characters and the trials they face.
Andrew Tate is an excellent lead, one who is believable and likeable enough to get behind. Alongside an excellent supporting cast, we get a real set of heroic characters who most will find themselves cheering for.
There’s a fair amount of drama to this horror story and that helps balance the frantic and violent segments. Of which there are many, each as bloody and visceral as any gore-hound could hope for. Winter knows how to describe his imagery and every cut tendon, ripped muscle or eviscerated piece of flesh is splashed across the pages.
He’s an imaginative man and it results in an imaginative read that is wonderfully other-worldly while retaining the realism of our world. It is a living and breathing place.
Periphery is a fast-paced read and for most of the time, it’s impossible to put down, However, there are some slow bits where characters converse to the point of annoyance. Useful for detail but it’s hard to not be chomping at the bit to get past them.
Then there is the ‘superhero’ conundrum. This is where it’s hard to be too invested in characters plights when it’s pretty clear the major players aren’t likely to be killed off. Andrew and some of the more important characters survive a hell of a lot here and it does lessen each subsequent conflict. Not massively but just enough that it’s something noticeable.
Minor complaints in a story that delivers thrills and chills, showcases a fully-realised world and gives us characters worth caring about.
Periphery (Michael Winter)
The Final Score - 8/10