Book Review: The Evolutionist

Book Review:

I met Rena Mason at the 2012 World Horror Convention is Salt Lake City. She was friendly, enthusiastic, and an all around great gal. She’d also just had a story published in the charity anthology Horror For Good, which I purchased and read and loved and reviewed HERE.

Naturally, when her debut novel was released, I picked up a copy. Sure, I picked it up because she’s an all around great gal but I also picked it up because “The Eyes Have It” her story in Horror For Good, was really quite excellent. As a general rule, if I like an author’s short fiction, I’ll also like their long fiction. It’s not always true but it’s pretty damn close and in Rena’s case, the rule holds.

The Evolutionist is a tale about an upper middle class housewife, Stacy, on the verge of madness. Her nights are plagued by dreams of dismembered and burning bodies in a post-apocalyptic death-scape and her days are filled with blinding headaches, unexplainable nose bleeds, and hallucinations.

With the help of Dr. Light, a very odd and aptly named psychiatrist, we learn that our protagonist is actually much more than an upper middle class housewife. So much more, in fact, that she may hold the key to coming (or not) of the end of the world.

One of the book’s strengths is the balance between the bizarre and the ordinary. Stacy’s life is one of book clubs, lunch dates, and the duties of being a mom. But, underneath it all, there are waking dreams, terrifying nightmares, and a creeping loss of control. Unbeknownst to her husband and friends, she is quietly losing her mind.

My only criticism is that while the juxtaposing of strange and ordinary is superb, the ordinary is a bit too ordinary. I tend to be attracted to “flawed” characters. If Stacy had been anything beside a suburban housewife; a taxi driver with a drinking problem, a cop who is in love with a prostitute, a washed up boxer with a penchant for watercolors, it would have been more my speed, but that is a personal preference that probably says more about me than it does about the story or its author.

The bottom line is, The Evolutionist is a really good book. The pacing is great, the storyline is intriguing, and the ending is completely and wholly unexpected. It’s a paranormal thriller, it’s a horror mystery, it’s dark sci-fi, it’s chick lit with a twist, it’s a whole lot of things, but most importantly, it’s a damn good read.


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