A few weeks ago, William Becker got in touch with me and asked if I would like to read his upcoming horror novel–Grey Skies, which released tomorrow, June 9th–for review. He sent me the synopsis, which really intrigued me, and I asked for a digital copy. I’m not writing a review for this one, though, because it was a DNF for me. I’m writing this post instead, because I do *not* think this is a bad book. It just really wasn’t for me, which I’ll explain below.
First up, here’s the cover and synopsis from Goodreads:
Roman Toguri finds himself burying the body of a nun in Boone, North Carolina. As the skies darken and it begins to storm, he is forced to shove the corpse into his trunk and take it home for the night, unaware of the torment that playing God will bestow upon him.
Enter Hell with two bonus short stories: The White Shade, an ultra-violent look into the mind of a mass shooter, and The Black Box, a psychedelic dive into weird horror.
I love horror. It’s my “thing,” and honestly, I’ve consumed so much horror over the course of my life that I’m kind of jaded and pretty much nothing surprises or scares me anymore. But I still love it, and constantly am on the lookout for interesting books or movies to check out. This one sounded really interesting, but the problem was definitely me.
This book was what made me realize (for sure) that I just don’t like bizarro fiction And I feel like this book definitely falls somewhere in that area. I want to like bizarro, and it feels like I should, but something about it doesn’t work for me at all, and I lose interest pretty fast. But, if you like stuff like John Dies at the End, then Grey Skies might be up your alley, and you should definitely check it out.
I read about 30% (roughly 70 pages) before I threw in the towel, and what I read was well written. The first couple or three chapters were weird, but I enjoyed them. After that, it got weirder, and harder for me to stay focused on it. (Again, that’s just me, not the book.) I really need to start caring about the universe or the character(s) by about 10% or 50 pages, whichever comes first, and I just didn’t connect with either.
When I first opened the book, I couldn’t help but laugh a little, and I had a smile on my face for a couple of minutes, because there are ciphers in here! The first one was a simple Pigpen Cipher, which I used all the freaking time between the ages of like…9-ish to, well…a few months ago 😛 That was super cool. After that, there are others that I feel like would be easier to figure out if you were looking at a physical copy of the book. It’s not impossible with an ebook, just slightly less convenient.
The opening chapter, with the nun, was weird in a sort of funny way, and I was feeling kind of bad for Roman, but also curious to see where things were going. After that, there was a thing with his bathroom, a thing with spiders (so, if you have arachnophobia, maybe pass on it), a tunnel leading from the crawl space below a house to the sewers, and more. By the time we landed on a ship, the fun had worn off for me.
I think this is another reason I don’t like bizarro, but I haven’t read enough (or seen enough) to be sure. I like to start seeing threads connecting by about 25%, and while I had some guesses about things that were going to connect, I wasn’t sure. I just can’t “go with it” for some reason. Most genre-fiction, sure. But I think bizarro(ish) is just a bit over my limit for suspension of disbelief and the like.
So, if you like ciphers, weird fiction, and you can just roll with whatever a story throws your way, definitely check out this book.
I really do wish I’d been able to get into it, because I think it’s probably going to be well loved by people who enjoy this kind of weird horror