World of Hurt

Brian Hodge's newest novel, World of Hurt, has been described as "a gut-punch," and I will gleefully go along with that assessment—it's short, sharp as a stick in the eye, and hurts like hell the more you think about it.

Come to think of it, those terms have often just as easily described much of Hodge's work in our field. For years now, I've found his stories in anthologies often the best in terms of being thought-provoking and/or shocking in nature. There is some kind of elegance in his descriptions of the grotesque that seems anchored to the simplicity and matter-of-factness with which he proposes them. Some of the anthologies have faded in memory, but Hodge's work in them (like Gary Braunbeck's) lives on in the nightmare world.

In this brief but weighty tome, questioning the existence and nature of God is only the beginning.

It's the kind of novel for which you think you are prepared—but sometimes, when traveling its roads, you want to get off at the next exit. There is no preparation for the absolute darkness at the center of World of Hurt—and it works more effectively than the run of the mill monster fiction. This messes with your mind, giving you a bad taste in the mouth you can't get rid of. Taking you back to the darkness of every death you've witnessed, and if you haven't witnessed any, giving you a taste of what's to come. It ain't pretty.

As a teenager, Andrei was killed in an accident in which his friend's car was submerged for nearly an hour. The friend died, but Andrei was brought back, minus his memory of the event. But now, years later, his memory is returning—and his experience wasn't that of the "white light" and welcoming feeling that so many near-death victims remember. No, those memories were false. What he remembers is a whole lot more frightening. The returning memory has reduced him to a neurotic mess who won't leave his sister's house for fear of really dying, and returning to that place he almost reached when he was younger.

But now, thanks to the Internet, Andrei seems to have found a soul mate, a young woman who has similar memories of her own near-death experience. An energized Andrei makes plans to visit. But someone else visits her first. It's one of the most disturbing scenes you'll ever read, partly because it's so forthright. And for Andrei, things go from bad to worse.

Who is Manon, the strangely worldly young woman who works for Andrei's sister Janika? She also seems to have coincidentally appeared with suspicious motives. And what about Bruce, the bland and truly "forgettable" traveler whose circle narrows, leading to Andrei and a fateful meeting that will bring him back to face what he saw when he was dead?

A Brian Hodge work is always populated by characters whose voices and reactions ring true, creating an interesting paradox in which heavy themes are discussed by normal people in terms we can all understand. The question may be, do we want to? And are we prepared if Hodge's dark vision is even close to reality?

Brian Hodge (The Darker Saints, Wild Horses) continues to deliver some of the most horrifying fiction ever put to paper without seeming to break a sweat. Indeed, his deceptively simple syntax hides a sting as easily as tall grass hides a snake. By the time you feel that sting, it's too late and you've been affected. There's no need for classic monsters here, but you might find yourself wishing for lighter moments. Like much of his work, World of Hurt goes places you don't always want to go, philosophically as well as physically. There are scenes here that can truly be called "chilling." But our field will always benefit from such serious questioning of the universal order of things, reminding us that literature of the dark fantastic is literature first.

About the Author

W.D. Gagliani

W.D. Gagliani was born in Kenosha, WI, but grew up in Genova, Italy. He now lives and writes in Milwaukee, WI. He earned his Master's degree in English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where he also taught Composition and Creative Writing. Bill's first novel, Wolf's Trap, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2004—and was published by Leisure Books in 2006. He is also the author of the novels Wolf's Gambit (2009), Wolf's Bluff (2010), and Wolf's Edge (October 2011 from Samhain Publishing, who will also reissue Wolf's Trap in a new edition in 2012). He is also responsible for the thriller Savage Nights, and the novellas Wolf's Deal (2011), and The Great Belzoni and the Gait of Anubis, as well as the collection Shadowplays (all of which are available in all the popular ebook formats). With collaborator David Benton, he has published Mysteries & Mayhem, as well as various short stories and the middle grade novel I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter (as A.G. Kent). Recently he has had nonfiction in On Writing Horror (WD Books), Thrillers: The 100 Must Reads (Oceanview), and the October 2011 issue of The Writer magazine.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Dark Passions: Hot Blood 13, Malpractice – An Anthology of Bedside Terror, the German anthology Masters of Unreality, and the ezine Dead Lines (all with David Benton), plus Undead Tales, Wicked Karnival Halloween Horror, Robert Bloch's Psychos, More Monsters From Memphis, Extremes 3: Terror on the High Seas, Extremes 4: Darkest Africa, The Asylum: The Violent Ward, Small Bites, The Black Spiral: Twisted Tales of Terror, and The Midnighters Club, among others. Fiction has also appeared in mostly now-defunct ezines such as Horrorfind, 1000 Delights, The Grimoire, and Dark Muse.

Besides ChiZine, his nonfiction articles, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Hellnotes, HorrorWorld, Paperback Parade, Flesh & Blood, SFReader.com, Bookpage, BookPage.com, BookLovers, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Science Fiction Chronicle, Bare Bones, The Scream Factory, Horror Magazine, Midnight Journeys, and various others.

Along with the Bram Stoker Award nomination for Wolf's Trap, he has had six Honorable Mentions in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and won the 1999 Darrell Award of the Memphis Science Fiction Association. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Authors Guild. For more info: www.wdgagliani.com. Find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wdgagliani and on Twitter @WDGagliani.

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