Written By Hayden Claborn, Entertainment Writer
It can be hard to pick up and start reading a book. Unlike a movie you’re more than likely going to spend some quality with it. For a good week or more it’ll be your buddy on the train or lunch. That’s why it’s easier to gravitate to novels with punchy premises. And Delilah S. Dawson’s new horror novel The Violence has a premise that is hard to resist for any genre fan.
The year 2025 and move over COVID-19, the world is dealing with a new disease simply called the violence. At any moment someone can go into a trance and commit a horrific act violence. On the first page Dawson describes the first incident on recond: a grandmother striking and beating to death a young woman with a bottle of a thousand island dressing. The conceit operates as a play on the zombie trope. Infected beings that only exist in a state of suicidal rage.
But what’s enduring about The Violence is it lacks an expansive nature. I hesitate to call it tight at almost 500 pages, however you aren’t switching to numerous POV all over the world as our reality falls into chaos. The narrative focuses on three generations of women of the Martins. You have the house wife, Chelsea Martin, the eldest daughter Ella, and the grandmother Patirica. What unites them all is controlling men. Chelsea’s husband is a domestic abusers and strikes fear not only into her but Ella; who also deals with an asshole boyfriend named Hayden. Patricia isn’t in an abusive marriage persay, but her husband Randall no longer, if ever, loves her.
The first one hundred pages in retrospect read more as a prologue. The set up is incredibly gripping and leads to a few tense sequences. The violence is portrayed as not just horrible for the victim but the perpetrator as well. The perpetrators are left confused and traumatized, trying to comprehend the actions they don’t recall. Although, a couple of times I felt like the central conceit falls into the background and Dawson really only gives glimpses of the full potential of the idea.
The novel switches gears as our characters start to splinter off and are forced to find liberation. It comes less about the genre elements and more about people coming to an understanding of what’s holding them back.
Patricia’s arc ends up feeling the most compelling as you start out really hating her coming to route for her. Chelsea’s storyline is what could throw off the readers the most in that it ventures a more goofy terrority. The metaphor of self transformation is blunt but Dawson does ultimately pull it off. Ella’s sections function as a pure survival narrative. She has to use her smarts to solve how to survive on her own.
Dawson is rather clever in how all these storylines almost render as different genres. Patricia’s has a more domestic vibe as she spends most of the book in one neighborhood. Chelsea’s has the most intimate quality and Ella’s is more straight genre. This keeps the reader engaged in how every other chapter is Dawson operating in a new mode. The one downside is that I started to develop a preference to one storyline over the other.
Despite realizing the book’s faults on further inspection, Dawson delivers an often riveting and effective yarn. The prose are fiendishly commercial and never registers as dull. It’s a worthy book to act as your buddy on the train or lunch.