ARC review, book launch, book review, horror

Book Review: Gothic by Philip Fracassi

Released today, Gothic is the story of 59 year old successful horror writer, Tyson Parks. Despite his name and back catalogue, no one wants to read his historical fiction doorstoppers, and money is a problem. Pride stops him from letting his much younger, extremely rich long term girlfriend know how stressed he is about his money problems. His expanding waistline, failing eyesight and thinning hair only add fuel to his growing distress.

Things seem to be looking up for Tyson when he receives a cursed stone altar, I mean desk, for his birthday. Who cares that he can’t remember writing his new book in a night when publishers are falling over themselves to buy it. However, is Tyson ready to pay the price for his returning fortune?

They say write what you know, so I guess that’s why so many writers write about authors struggling to write their next book. I’m not a fan of this kind of story. I find it self indulgent, and they usually follow the same predictable path. Gothic is no different. 

The publisher wisely labels this old school horror. With it’s tone deaf characters, recycled plot and dated scares, it reads like it was written over forty years ago. Apart from an occasional mention of a cell phone (the Luddite main character doesn’t own one), and a laptop (which I think is really a typewriter, judging by the noise of the keys), I’d say it actually was written over forty years ago. Its hackneyed tropes and stereotypical characters are laid out without the slightest hint of irony or wink to the audience, apart from some jabs at so called critics near the end of the book, and a deluge of mentions of Stephen King so that the aping of his style can be called a homage. 

Other reviewers seem to have found this book horrific, extreme and body horror. I guess I’m desensitized, because I didn’t find the scenes of carved leaves coming to life and stabbing people in any way frightening, gory, or original. Perhaps if the characters were realistic or the writing more captivating I would have been moved by these images.

I was disturbed by the frequent use of rape as a cheap shot to disturb, especially the rape of Sarah, Tyson’s girlfriend, and how the characters deal with the aftermath.

The female characters are another big issue in Gothic. Sarah only thinks and talks about Tyson, dreaming of being his wife. Her job in an antiquities shop is belittled as a “volunteer” situation rather than “work” (emphasis is not mine but from the book) – “The job is simply something to keep her busy.

Tyson’s 21 year old daughter, Violet, is similarly obsessed with her father.

Disability and body shaming receive the ‘old school’ treatment as well. It really is like reading a book written in the 1980s. The characters in their early twenties rarely use their phones (but they do read newspapers and write in little notebooks that they carry in their pockets) and there is no acknowledgement of the shifting landscape of publishing or the ever present shadow of social media.

If you’re looking for another story of a hugely successful author turning to a cursed object to revive his flagging career, I suggest you turn to Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome instead of Gothic. It lampoons the tired old story that this book replicates, and manages to be more entertaining and original than this book, as well as being funny. 

I award Gothic

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Gothic by Philip Fracassi”

  1. I guess this book didn’t do it for you, Iseult. I also find books about authors a little self-indulgent, and the old-school horror style doesn’t really appeal to me either. I like the cover though! 🙂 Thanks for the honest review.

    Liked by 1 person

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