SALVATION SPRING by T.C. Parker
Reviewed by Austrian Spencer
Horror, thankfully, comes in so many forms that each book gathered under its widespread arms brings something new to the table. There are so many sub-genres, it is a reflection of the flexibility and openness to ideas of its readers, who embrace it wholeheartedly. I think the beauty of horror enthusiasts is that they are wanting to be shocked, scared, horrified, but always by something new. Something they haven’t seen before. Be it creature horror - a werewolf story where the werewolf is not actually called that, but we know it anyway – or psychological horror – how far will a mother go in order to bring her son back from the dead? The possibilities are endless, as are the presentations of those ideas, and the many voices which invite you into their stories.
And that’s where we start in Salvation Spring. With T.C.’s voice.
I think I can say that already by the second page, I was rubbing my hands together – knowing that whatever was going to happen, I was going to be enthralled. Mrs. (Ms., Miss, Mz?) Parker’s voice is just honey. It is educated (I don’t care what you say there, T.C. – the level of subtlety and vocabulary used, show an accumulation of vocabulary and presentation that can only come from extensive reading and writing – in short, “education” in this reader’s mind), provocative, detail-rich, emotionally loaded. It is succinct. It is beautiful, it’s everything you want to have in a book to escape for however many hours it will take you to read the book.
And here’s the thing, that voice carries the book. It’s such a persuasive voice that I slowed down – and that’s a great sign. My subconscious mind wanted to prolong my stay in her world – I made a note early on that I thought the book was “a thinker” – one that I was going to have to process, but having ruminated on the effect, I believe it was my own attempt at stretching out the book. Yes, there are concepts here that are worth contemplation, and yes, the slow burn build-up, which focusses on character rather than horror or violence, set the pace, encourage full participation and discourage skim reading, but it is the reader's unwillingness to let that story go that makes it all last longer. T.C. has crafted a book where you will, undoubtedly, read every word she wrote, exactly as she intended it to be read. A remarkable achievement.
The author names the story “Queer weird cosmic horror”. It has a gay relationship in it that comes across naturally and organically. Character arcs are plotted out well, background lives explored, the life of the main character Sasha seems believable. The fact that she is gay is irrelevant to the main plot, she begins to have a relationship with another woman in Salvation Springs, and it is beautifully rendered. The presentation of their budding relationship is believable, and then, as we are coming to grips with a horror-love story, we go into the “weird” part of the novel.
To say that the events that happen come out of the blue and are therefore not foreseeable, is to state the obvious. The identity of the “villains” of the novel, IS weird. I am wary of dropping spoilers, so the less I say the better, I believe. However, I can say that an element of that weirdness, the “capture” of Sasha, and that twice in the book, left me unsated. And that is not T.C.’s fault at all. That’s me leaning to a raw, detail-rich love of violence, well-described and psychologically unrepentant. Salvation spring has body horror, cosmic horror, psychological horror, but almost no violence. Instead, it focuses on character, relationships, background story and mythology.
And it covers that ground sublimely.
T.C. really knows her characters, it’s a love of the minute details, the psychology of relationships and body language. It’s a fascinating case study of a damaged person being loved by a person overcome with guilt, and how that relationship ruins the world. The horror here is perhaps more subdued in the later stages – the nature of the cosmic horror at play does somewhat make the character's needs and goals somewhat minute in the grander scale of things. But it is that focus that ultimately wins the day and makes the novel – because T.C. nailed her characters, nailed the language, and, like all good horror – showed us something new.
If this is an example of T.C.’s promise to “make horror queer as hell”, I’m all for it.
This is a solid 4 out of 5⭐'s , and was a well spent lazy weekend for me, basking in her wonderful prose.
Austrian Spencer is the author of the novel,