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Depravity for Delight?

Author: Richard Laymon

Sixteen-year-old Jody’s sleepover with her best friend went from normal to nightmare in a matter of seconds. She woke up to find her friend speared by a stranger and her friend’s family being dismembered, raped, and cannibalized. Jody barely escaped, managing to rescue her friend’s 12-year-old brother, but that night of horror is hardly over. The killers are still looking for the survivors. Jody and Andy (the brother) are not safe anywhere; it’s time to go on the run with Jody’s cop father and a random, hot female cop.

Endless Night starts with a bang. I was reading it, late at night, house-sitting for my parents far off in the country and shivering every second. The break-in, the escalating horror, the representation of a nightmare come true, of being the truly random victim at the wrong place at the wrong time, was high octane. The brutality, combined with the breakneck escape and near misses, had me on the edge of my seat. I nearly jumped out of bed when one of my parents’ cats knocked over something downstairs. This book was sick . . . but I was hooked. I had to see what happened. Four hundred plus pages later, the necromantic spell had long since worn off and I was bored and disgusted.

The thriller / horror atmosphere that kept the first 100 pages going was lost, and once Jody and Andy go into hiding, the story becomes tedious. There are two main perspectives. Jody, who has a weird sexual tension with 12-year-old Andy (WTF Laymon), and Simon, the killer who messed it up and is tasked with ending the witnesses before his nearest and dearest get a little serial killer treatment.

Simon is flamboyant, a depraved killer who describes rape and murder with gusto, keeping a running commentary that is meant to be both shocking and disgustingly “funny” at times. He records his stream-of-thought plans on a tape recorder (a plot device “confession”). He’s afraid of getting killed by his best-buds since he let the killer team down and let Jody and Andy escape . . . and he also has the hots for the girl-who-survived. It could be his best rape/kill combo yet. But first he has to make his way through some randoms, cranking the gore and slowly, slowly, stalking Jody.

Reading these sections just leaves readers disgusted. Yes, it’s horror and readers know going in that we have some serial killer stuff going down, but enough with the torture porn. Firstly, if you want something sick and twisted, Ed Lee does this kind of thing way better. And secondly, why would you want this? It honestly makes me concerned that people enjoy reading things this descriptively depraved. Let me make my point: this is hundreds of pages of innocent people getting killed, raped, tortured, cut into pieces, in front of their loved ones, all with a “comical” killer making crude comments and occasionally French frying some victims. It’s not done sparingly to give us a sense that this big bad is truly bad. It’s done for itself, to entertain readers, and THAT’s a scary thought.

Back on the Jody side, it’s just sheerly boring and completely lacking in logic. Andy lost his entire family, but he’s mostly just interested in sexy Jody, who is starting to reciprocate the interest. When not having this weird, completely pedophiliac tendency, the characters are having the inanest conversations ever, including a truly mind-numbing gun safety lesson that goes on and on. No one seemed traumatized by what they saw, and no one seemed to have a single brain cell, including the cop dad. Who is more incompetent, the killers or the survivors? It’s hard to say.

But don’t look twice, because of course everyone’s going to do the usual horror movie trope and presume that the baddie is dead without confirmation. Because, again, no brain cells. So, we get one more shot at torture porn, weird Andy/Jody tension, and a splatterpunk ending with a decapitated head and attempted rape (in front of the child’s father). Because . . . of course we do.

This is my second attempt at reading Laymon. The first time I read him, in The Traveling Vampire Show, I had all the same dislikes, but that was surely a one-off, right? Apparently not. Despite the high-energy, thriller-like beginning, Endless Night oscillates between evil-for-entertainment and sheer page wasting filler.  Not recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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