SISTER, MAIDEN, MONSTER by Lucy A. Snyder (BOOK REVIEW)
‘Something about it was triggering a very old fear instinct in me; this creature was an actual monstrosity and did not belong in the world’
Lucy A. Snyder is the author of 15 books and over 100 published short stories. Her most recent titles are the apocalyptic horror novel Sister, Maiden, Monster and the collection Halloween Season. She lives near Columbus, Ohio with a jungle of houseplants, a clowder of cats, and an insomnia of housemates.
You can learn more about her at www.lucysnyder.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @LucyASnyder.
Lucy Snyder has successfully written a novel riddled with body horror, erotica, and repulsion. Snyder has stitched together the darkest most disturbing thoughts a person might have, religious doomsday prophecies as well as left over anxieties related to covid-19. Within this novel, Snyder doesn’t just ask the question “what if…?” when it comes to the end of the world… she answers it, in the most horrific possible way.
Snyder juxtaposes three separate narratives, all based in the same time period, from three different perspectives. Erin, Savannah and Mareva. And yes, one might be tempted to say “ah, Erin is the sister, Savannah is the maiden and Mareva must be the monster!” But.. I would ask you not to make such assumptions, as I do not think that these labels justify these characters – each character could wear a name tag embossed with a messy, bloodstained identification that embodies all three titles (one which I cannot even fathom).
“I could smell Betty. Not her perfume. Her. And she smelled fucking delicious.”
Erin is the first we encounter. A disease has broken out, stabbing everyone with familiar pangs of nostalgia to the corona virus. The infection sounds pretty similar, but if you are infected, you are guaranteed a trip to the hospital, if not the morgue. The disease is called PVG or ‘Polymorphic Viral Gastoencephalsiits,’ and the side effects are simply disturbing.
If you survive PVG, you could end up suffering from a ‘deficiency,’ leading to you needing ‘supplements.’ You could also remain infectious, even if your symptoms of the disease have faded. If you are unfortunate enough to require ‘supplements,’ you might be required to consume human blood… or worse still, brains.
“H-human?” I stammered. “Ya’ll turned me into a fucking cannibal? What kind of mad scientist bullshit are ya’ll into here?
Erin is sadly classed as infectious, and a ‘brain eater,’ so her life is changed forever. Savannah and Mareva suffer a different fate, but I am reluctant to reveal much more without ruining the novel for you. Snyder alludes to many familiar and popular genre traits as well as playing with her audience through defamiliarized contextualisation’s – such as religious metamorphosis, Vampirism and Zombies. Snyder skilfully tricks the reader, page by page, chapter by chapter you assume the novel could be turning into a Walking Dead – The Last of Us – World War Z scenario, but she really does keep you guessing.
‘How can any supervisor be truly, authentically happy with the work of an employee they’re afraid will affect them with a deadly disease? Or go on a murder rampage someday’.
Snyder constructs the novel in a similar way, and introduces little familiar (but not quite the same) tropes that we may have come across before, such as: obtaining memories by eating brains (iZombie, Warm Bodies) drinking blood in erotic scenarios (TruBlood.. vampires in general right?) as well as an all-out attempt to treat the terrifying condition, and reintroduce sufferers into society, rather than kill the infected (In The Flesh). Snyder alludes to all these things, but never outright says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ until suddenly it all becomes clear.
“It’s enough to keep your skin and brains from ulcerating. It’s enough to keep your nose from rotting off.”
Snyder’s novel is a contender for what I (kindly) call the ‘most horrific book’ I have ever read. My current winner is a book called ‘Cows,’ by Matthew Stokoe. A horrific tale that required about 27 trigger warnings for things such as bestiality, self-abortion, animal abuse and murder. Snyder doesn’t quite reach the level Stokoe manages to, but page 147 made me almost throw up, so thanks Lucy.
Brans, brains, the magical meat.
The worse you feel, the more you eat.
The more you eat, the more vicious you get.
Brain eaters are the worst kind of threat!
I have seen a few negative reviews from keyboard warriors jumping on some of the comments within this novel, pointing out an insensitivity in Snyder’s writing concerning Jeffery Dahmer’s victims. To these comments I can only say that contextually, including the Dahmer analogy did fit the novel (but it could have been ditched) and also – if that is what bothers you in this novel, you really have not been paying attention.
Snyder has created something unique here, it’s grotesque and repulsive, but it is also brilliant and beautiful. A story created in Dante’s vision of hell, then regurgitated into something addictive and infectious. I have already leant my copy to friends who felt the same as I did, we find ourselves in the same position as Maurice:
“Lucy, what the fuck is wrong with you? Good grief that story was messed up. Thanks. I think”
Sister, Maiden, Monster is available now from Titan Books, order your copy HERE