The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really had no business reading this book. I don't read a lot of straight-up horror and so it's difficult for me to compare this to other horror as my experience with it is very limited. However, my husband is a horror buff and as I read this and told him about it he was intrigued. I stopped giving him plot points later on as I'm hoping he will read it. What I can say for certainty is The Chrysalis kept my attention and hooked me right from the opening pages.
While there is nothing special about the concept of Brendan Deneen's latest book; there is a creepiness to the writing and portrayal that permeates throughout and got to me. A weird 'thing' exists in the basement of a creepy house bought by a couple who are trying to find their place in life as they are forced to leave their New York apartment and buy (in a low price bracket) in New Jersey. The main plot is about the house itself, about our couple and the deterioration of their marriage, and (of course) the 'thing' in the basement called the chrysalis. Where did this thing come from? What does it do to people? How does it live? And what are our lead characters going to do about it? All questions that Deneen gives us answers to throughout the story.
I enjoyed the perspective of the leading man in this horror story. He's an unambitious bartender who seems (more or less) content with his plot in life. He doesn't make a lot of money and doesn't mind until his wife gets pregnant and they need to pay for a new baby and their mortgage. I think the depression and emotions of our lead guy are very genuine. At points I wondered if author Deneen hasn't lived some elements of the story and experienced some of the same thoughts. Looking at my own life, (I have a mortgage and a husband) I couldn't help but wonder if my own spouse has had some of the same thoughts of our leading man. He feels so genuine and authentic. Perhaps that is what makes this story so compelling and creepy; not that the chrysalis exists, but that the man who is affected by it is so realistic that you can't help but understand why he does what he does in the end.
Again, I can't speak to the scariness for the regular horror reader; but I can say that for me it was creepy enough and that there were points at which I was concerned I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I did not read this before bed for that very reason. As I read more than one book at a time that works for me. While I would have liked to learn more about the chrysalis itself and it's origin there is not a lot else to really criticise in terms of content and plot. However, there were points during the wife's pregnancy that seemed a bit unrealistic or de-emphasized. While I've never been pregnant myself, I have known many women who have been and it seemed that some of the difficulties of the wife during her pregnancy were downplayed.
As an aside, I loved the authors note and acknowledgements at the end. He gives a lot of credit to others and I must agree with his assessment that the brilliance of doing the story over 9 months of a pregnancy is one of the best elements in the story (even if he didn't come up with that idea himself). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural, alien, x-files, horror-like story; with the caveat that while it disturbed me in places I'm not sure it's 'scary enough' for most horror fans.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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