by Jay Wilburn
In full disclosure, I’m posting this review on my own blog because of my connection to the publisher. I work for them as a columnist and my own novel Time Eaters will be coming out with Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing later in 2013. That being said, I completely stand by this review. Having read Cruel I could not leave it without comment. Take my opinions with a grain of salt, but this book is too powerful to not share with anyone that might be looking for something dark and great.
Cruel — Book I: Strangers in Paradise Trilogy by Eli Wilde with Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing earned its title of Cruel and challenges the reader from the first page. The story is emotion desperate for an outlet. I’m immediately afraid for everyone around the first person narrator. I want to reach in and save all the life around him. Eli Wilde gives striking prose and engaging terrors.
A “hyena in parent’s clothes” might be one of the darkest, most moving turns of phrase I’ve read in a very long time. He had my full attention at that moment.
When we jump back in time, we know that we are on a ride that may throw us. Wilde is not going to be kind with us on this journey. Brace yourself.
You may never look at love the same way again. Memory is an incredibly unreliable thing. We must explore Evan’s, the narrator’s, recollections to understand who is telling the story. Hang on.
Every word and every small detail holds the potential for terror and deeper meaning. You despise Evan and then feel heart-warming sympathy for him. Wilde is doing this on purpose and with purpose. He does so at will with readers completely in his grasp.
Cruel is a coming of age story like no other. Experience every significant moment of an entire life, but in concise scenes that waste no words. Even though I understood them, I sometimes read sections twice because they were so powerfully written. We watch as the narrator discovers the details of his life interrogating his own memories and often being crushed by them before our own eyes.
Each cantos takes another piece of Evan and we have to hope as we approach the end that eventually the pain and damage might be taken a piece at a time as well.
I am utterly amazed someone can write like this. I’ve never seen horror, sympathy, and discovery utilized this masterfully and brutally. I am awestruck. This novel leaves me feeling cold. I have never built a character or a story this well.
Callbacks in the story are devastating. Wilde uses short bursts of prose to create foreboding at key moments.
The first day of school is remarkably written. The second day is written even stronger. It is exactly the beats Wilde intended.
He builds the psychology of the character piece by painful piece even as pieces are taken from Evan in the process. We see a blend of torture and horror that are seldom mastered this well in a story. Nine out of ten isn’t bad with the Commandments depending on which one is missing. The story is such a powerful look into the mind of a child growing up in danger mentally. As he moves into adulthood, we understand everything about him from following his life.
You will probably never want to become an angel after seeing how one is made.
Each break I took from reading made the story more interesting once I came back again. I’m certain some of you might read it in one sitting.
You will not like some of the places you must go with Evan, but it is important to him and you as the reader are his companion for this important reliving. We are rooting for a broken hero tracing his fall through the cantos of his life. We are afraid of what trail and trials he must face next and not knowing what victory can even look like for a character like this.
This is real horror in a real life growing up. If one can’t handle this raw look into such a broken life, I’m not sure what the purpose of reading horror literature is. As he goes into adulthood, you feel the danger of the child we saw grow. You know what is possible.
The story does get sexually explicit in some of the adult memories, but it leads to a purpose. Trust that there is a literary weight to its inclusion in the story.
The dark payoffs in the latter cantos are expertly placed and played. Brace yourself. I said, brace yourself. It is a dark, surreal, and purposefully painful read. One of the greatest novels I’ve ever read is Cruel by Eli Wilde. I defy anyone to read this work and argue against its power. If I have found the best novel I am going to read in 2013 already, it is going to be tough. The rest of you authors will need to give it your best to top this. I’m curious if Eli Wilde has the courage to continue to write with this level of power in the future. I know he has the ability after reading Cruel.