Eric LaRocca is an upcoming name in horror, having turned themselves towards works with such dizzyingly fun titles as Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, The Trees Grew Because I Bled There, and Starving Ghosts in Every Thread. Now he releases his new novella Everything the Darkness Eats, a pitch-dark examination of religion, faith, and the depths of human anguish.
The story is split between two protagonists within the same sleepy town of Henley’s Edge – the brilliantly-named Ghost Everling (spooky name, full of Required Tragic Backstory) and local police officer Nadeem Malik (a gay cop trying to make it in a less-than-welcoming town with his hubby) each find themselves dealing with darkness that seeps into the town, both supernatural and all-too-human, sending them down journeys of gruesome exploration and dark enlightenment.
LaRocca has a gift for mood and terror; the opening salvo of the novella, set in 1990’s Wales, is the kind of bleak, paranormal cosmic horror that chills the bones, while moments scattered throughout are filled with the kind of creeping dread that Stephen King and his kin have all but popularised. King himself proves a canny mirror here; equally-brilliantly-named villain Heart Crowley provides Everything the Darkness Eats with its Leland Gaunt-esque spectre on the town (a la Needful Things), and a way of exploring grief, trauma, and depression, here given anthropomorphic voice here in a neat literary trick.
It’s a shame then that so much of Everything the Darkness Eats feels positively flaccid, LaRocca having exchanged structure and plotting for terror and mood. The novella’s secondary plot – that of Malik and his husband Brett – feels tacked on, a way to fill out the pages while also attempting to explore a homophobia plot not big enough to earn its own story.
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This is Everything the Darkness Eats‘ biggest failing – the two storylines only converge in the final dozen or so pages and have minimal impact on one other. This isn’t to say that this storyline is inherently bad or unaffecting – although it does have one particularly nauseating and needless sequence in the third act – more that it doesn’t tie into the general conceit of the novella, nor have any real consequences moving forward, as well as falling victim to a deus ex machina of the highest order.
Suffering from some serious structural and plotting misfires and perhaps requiring some assistance from an editor, there is still a lot to enjoy about LaRocca’s bleak yet ultimately hopeful novella. Everything the Darkness Eats is far from perfect, but its mood is suitably bleak, and it’ll prove a quick, dark read for a cool October evening; exactly what the author seems to have intended.
Everything the Darkness Eats is out now from Titan Books.