Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Book Review: "Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre" (Rod Glenn)

A man with a hazy past and what would appear to be (a) too much time on his hands and (b) an unsafe acquaintance with technology and weaponry terrorizes and ultimately destroys an entire small town. The devastation is psychological, emotional, and quite literal.

Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre, by author Rod Glenn, is a work of horror based on the premise that inside any one of us lurks the potential for great destruction, the potential to hurt and wound and even destroy those around us, for no appreciable reason (or, at the least, for no appreciable reason that others would understand).

From the prologue --- even from the author's forward on page seven --- the reader knows that this book is not going to be one that ends well, or satisfactorily, or cheerfully, for anybody. Somehow, by the end of the book, though the protagonist (of sorts) has gotten what he wanted, it's possible to feel that he really hasn't, actually, achieved anything that will further his life or change him or make him, in any way, a better person. He remains a static character throughout the work: intent from page one on wreaking havoc, grimly soldiering on through his predetermined task, and never in any real danger of being caught or stopped along the way.

That same sense of inevitability and anticipation pervades the story throughout --- even as I met each of the townspeople in turn, I knew they were not long for the fictional world of the novel. Suspense hung lightly around each corner, each page I turned, not about what was going to happen (I already knew that) and not about whether the man would get away with it (I already knew he would) but about how he would overpower each person and, really, keep the rest of the townspeople from striking back.

I will, here, add a caveat for the reader of this review: I don't read very much horror. As such, perhaps it's unfair of me to analyze the content of the book in light of that genre and its readers' expectations, but my commitment to honesty compels me to do so, anyway.

I found the book less intriguing than I had hoped, and far less frightening or horrifying than I ought to have, I suspect. In my opinion, horror is not really achieved with pages and pages of graphic descriptions of death and dismemberment --- such descriptions run rife through Glenn's book with an intensity that far outruns the term "gratuitous."

Instead, I find myself more often horrified and terrorized by subtleties: the suggestion of a psychological breakdown; or the hint that "something" isn't quite right that bears out true in the end; or the slight scent of oppression, some figure determined to maintain power by any means necessary; or the killer who, without apparent conscience or care, is perfectly willing to justify his actions, no matter how horrendous and inhuman they are (see "The Tell-Tale Heart," by Edgar Allan Poe, for instance).

There is no redeeming quality to Sinema. The pseudo protagonist is not someone for whom the reader can cheer or with whom the reader can identify. There isn't really any appreciable time given to convincing the reader that the man had a justifiable motive for what he did. All of the townspeople are essentially helpless, useless characters whose selfishness and rampantly out-of-control emotions get the better of their common sense and rationality and enable a single man to decimate all of them, methodically and on his own terms. The law enforcement personnel are as hopeless, inane, and inept as the villagers.

Justice isn't served. No one is saved. No one is delivered or spared.

The only items I can really mention that did truly horrify me were the unnecessarily graphic, disturbing descriptions of how the pseudo protagonist coldly and cruelly brutalized and murdered the villagers' pets right alongside their owners.

I found nothing to like about the protagonist, and little to like about the story itself. It's a long work, but it might have been longer, since a great deal of the work is "telling" (summarized events) instead of "showing" (actually portraying each of the scenes and conversations). I found myself skimming and even skipping whole paragraphs and pages of information because it was all summarized; I assume that if anything is summarized to that extent, it really didn't pertain to the story at hand, and should have been trimmed in an edit.

My greatest struggle in reading the book through to completion --- yes, I finished the work in its entirety --- was the total pointlessness of it all. I have no way to know the intent behind the book's being written and its publication, but its underlying message seems to be simply to underscore the fact that the world is a hideous place full of hopeless, hideous people who commit hideous acts on others (innocent or not) and then get away with it.

It was not exactly an uplifting message.

Here, then, is my conclusion: Rod Glenn writes a heavily detailed story as psychologically dense as it is full of the elements that make up particularly graphic horror novels (or slasher films) these days. It was not to my taste, but if your idea of horror jives with blood spattered far and wide, brain matter bursting, eyeballs stabbed clear through, animals crushed and shot, and children dismembered, look no further.

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Title: Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre
Author: Rod Glenn
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


  1. Not sure "uplifting" is something I look for in horror, to be honest.

    1. Granted, of course, which is why I added the caveat that I don't read a lot of horror. Perhaps the "point" of horror is something more along the lines of the kind of catharsis that people used to get from watching ancient Greek tragedy productions; it was so depressing that by the end, the audience had gotten all their depressing emotions expressed, too, so they went home more peaceful. Does that sound like a more accurate assessment?

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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