Review published on March 8, 2017.
This is the second of this author’s novels that I’ve read (the first being his excellent debut, The Deep) and once again I’m impressed. Nick Cutter has been compared to Stephen King, not least by the great man himself, and it’s not hard to see why; a definite King vibe runs through this novel, from the general scepticism concerning religious fanaticism, to the mounting air of menace that builds and builds to nerve-shredding heights. But equally, some of King’s faults can be found here, not least the text’s length and the corresponding suspicion that it would have been a better book had some prose been cut.
The plot revolves around a bunch of gunslingers – the book description calls them mercenaries, but really, they’re more like gangsters – who are employed by a woman to accompany her to a remote religious community. She’s concerned that her nephew has been taken there against his will by his deadbeat dad and she wants their help should she need to bust him out. Seeing this as an easy gig, the mercenaries/gangsters agree and go along for the ride. This being a horror novel of course, things don’t turn out so easy.
Nick Cutter is a great writer, a brilliant wordsmith, and undoubtedly this novel is a great read. The author really imbues the religious community with a sense of the sinister and one just knows that this isn’t going to be some paradise. He also imbues a real sense of terror in the characters’ first encounter with the supernatural element of the story. That scene I suggest you read during daylight hours, or at least with the light on.
This leads me to my first criticism of Little Heaven. Now to be fair, this might be because horror isn’t my preferred gene. My first choice of read is crime/thriller, with horror coming a distant second. So, this might be a tad unfair of me. But I kept finding the supernatural/horror elements getting in the way. The author does such a good job of portraying the religious cult, as well as it’s charismatic and crazy leader, that I kind of wanted him to write a book about a Jim Jones/Jonestown death cult, that is, a study of a madman leading his followers to disaster. But, of course, that’s not the focus of the novel – though it does form a strand of the story – and the horror is what the author is all about.
To be fair to Nick Cutter, the supernatural elements are all handled effectively. As I indicate above, many scenes are really scary, the sort of thing that may well give you nightmares. If horror is your thing, if you’re a fan of Stephen King, then this is a book you should read. Until the end that is. And that leads to my second criticism: the ending. Despite how good the majority of the story was and Cutter’s obvious writing talent, I’m just not sure that it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.
All in all, this is a good book. It’s a little too long and I would rather there was more on the cult (but to be fair, that reflects my own reading tastes). My biggest complaint is the ending, which to me at least, made little sense. But if you like Stephen King, you could do a lot worse than read this.
James Pierson 4/4
Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
Gallery Books 9781501104213 hbk Jan 2017