Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Redrum Horror (June 30, 2012)
Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Black & Orange (2010), has a new tome – Bottled Abyss - that will no doubt earn him a second bronze haunted castle statue next year.
Bottled Abyss takes on the well-worn trope of exploring the meaning of life and death and binds it to classical myth, namely the legend of the Ferryman. But instead of focussing on the myth or blatantly trying to re-invent it (although he does twist it into fresher territory), Ethridge poses the question of “if you had the power of death, how would you wield it?”
Ethridge masterfully touches on themes of grief, loss and redemption through each of the main characters, but primarily via Herman and Janet Erikson, whose marriage is in turmoil after the tragic death of their daughter Melody when she was hit by a car driven by criminals.
Since her death, Janet has resorted to drinking heavily and distanced herself from the world. The tale enters supernatural territory when Herman goes looking for their missing dog and finds it near death. A strange man with an oar-like cane saves the dog by letting it drink from an equally strange bottle. The dog coughs up a coin and a price must be paid to a gargantuan beast from the depths of the River Styx.
And so begins the cycle of a “death-for-a-death”.
The beast, known as The Fury, is probably one of the most horrific monsters I’ve ever come across in horror fiction and it was fantastic to see a creature that wasn’t your oh-so-common shambling zombie!
Temptation also plays a big part in the plot as Janet and Herman come into possession of the bottle and realise its power. A single drop of the waters from the River Styx is enough to conjure a coin from anyone and summon the beast and Janet suddenly has eyes for the man who took her daughter’s life.
Without giving too much more of the plot away, the character viewpoints are constantly shifting from Janet and Herman and their friends, married couple Evan and Faye, and we even get to go inside the heads of the people who have the misfortune of coming into the contact with the waters and face-to-face with the Fury.
This may irk some readers, but I found it enthralling as I got to know more about each character through their interactions with the bottle.
Ultimately the story is about choice as well and its repercussions, with Janet and the others falling victim themselves to the bottle’s promise of salvation and like with any Hell of any mythology, the chance of escape is unlikely.
The suspense, characterisation and plot of Bottled Abyss will definitely grab you by the throat and hold you until the final page, dragging you deep into the cold waters of the River Styx. So get yourself a copy and dive in because you won’t forget this journey anytime soon!
The Author provided a copy for review.
Review by Greg Chapman