Devil’s Island by C.M Saunders [Review]
It’s been a while since I’ve read a good, solid horror novel. Sure, my favourite writer is Stephen King, and I bought and consumed his latest two books at a feverish pace, but it’s been quite a long time since I read a new novel that actually made me look over my shoulder to check if anything was there. I’m a stalwart of horror; I’ve become acclimatised to it, and nothing much can really scare me anymore. At least, this is what I like to think. Thus, when I received a complimentary copy of C.M Saunders’ new novella Devil’s Island (available in digital and paperback formats from Rainstorm Press), I deliberately went into it with my expectations lowered. “I’ll review this one based on whether or not I enjoyed the storyline”, I told myself. That was all. There was no way this book would actually manage to be scary. I was quite wrong; not only did I enjoy this book, but I found it suitably unsettling and atmospheric, just like a good horror story should be.
Devil’s Island is the story of Davon Rice, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, recently returned to civilian life and down on his luck. Desperate for w0rk, Davon accepts a mysterious job offer he finds online and becomes a live-in security guard for a supposedly abandoned military research facility off the coast of Scotland, the titular Devil’s Island. At first, Davon’s new job seems like an easy gig – all he has to do is keep the base maintained for a few months and make sure no wayward vagrants make off with the equipment left behind – but, after only a few days within the confines of the Island, things start to go downhill, and Davon realises he’s sharing his new accommodations with something very evil. What follows is an entertaining, genuinely menacing (if a little predictable) series of events, and this is what makes C.M Saunders’ book a worthwhile read.
As far as horror stories go, it’s a pretty simple premise, essentially boiling down to a creature feature with equal parts haunted house story. Don’t read Devil’s Island for a gripping storyline or complex characterisation. While Saunders does inject some backstory for Davon, attempting to subtly comment on war and its aftermath for veterans in the process, and he does attempt to place an emphasis on uncovering the mystery of the research facility, this is a book that is best read for scares. While a stronger story would have been an excellent selling point for this book (particularly if there were more foreshadowing leading up to the rather jarring twist ending), what Saunders does extremely well here is create a stiffing atmosphere of isolation, uncertainty and lurking horror. Saunders’ style paints a perfect picture of how it feels to be alone in a dark, scary building while something undefinable stalks you at every turn. We rarely get to see Saunders’ “monster” in Devil’s Island (in fact, we only briefly get to glimpse it at the end of the book), but in true Lovecraftian fashion, this only somehow makes it scarier. Devil’s Island is macabre psychological horror at its – well, not best, but it’s still very good.
Considering Devil’s Island is available in digital formats and is relatively cheap, as well as being a reasonably short read, I’d fully recommend picking it up and saving it for a dreary day. You may start off thinking you’ve read this story before (and in some respects, you have), but if you’re looking for a book that will scare you and nothing more, you’ll soon find yourself drawn in by Saunders’ atmospheric prose, and when that happens, Devil’s Island won’t let you go.
Are there any other books you’d like to see me review? Leave your suggestion in the comments!