Review: The Monsters in Our Shadows
Updated: Mar 10
Civilisation has collapsed. The last city, Atlas, is all that remains of the human race after "the consumption". The soil is barren, insects becoming the main food source as everything else has died out. The dwindling population lives in denial of the monsters that haunt their very existence, that feed on their fears and insecurities, growing in the shadows. Always keep smiling, do not look at them, do not acknowledge them, let no one see your fear lest the Reaper Exile you to the Deadlands.
In the city at the end of the world, the remnants of humanity are afflicted by monsters called Shiver’s, things that grow from our shadows, ever hungry, waiting for the moment to devour their host. A drug called Felixodine keeps them at bay for a while, till the inevitable happens. That’s where Anthem comes in. Anthem is Atlas’s Exilist, known and hated by the rest of the population as The Reaper. It’s his job to be there when the afflicted’s time comes, and ensure a painless end. Pamphlets tell the citizens of Atlas of a world outside the walls, where the afflicted can live in peace, their monsters untethered - the pamphlets are a lie and ignorance is bliss. But Anthem seeks the truth. Why is it that we are plagued with these monsters, can life truly not survive outside the walls of Atlas, and is there a way to defeat the Shivers and kill them once and for all?
Edward J Cembal’s debut novel, The Monster in our Shadows is an incredible piece of speculative fiction. From the very first page I was on the edge of my seat, what fresh new hell was Anthem going to face next? Cembal quite masterfully weaves together dystopian, horror, and science fiction and asks us to dig deep down and confront the monsters that terrorise the darkest recesses of our minds: depression, anxiety, paranoia, loneliness, amongst many others. The society of Atlas is teetering on the edge of destruction, where admitting the existence of any of those feelings means expulsion from the civilised world.
The Monsters in Our Shadows is a powerful commentary on mental illness. Along Anthem’s journey to discover the truth, he wrestles with his own monsters, both literal and metaphorical. Just like the Shiver’s, when we refuse to acknowledge the darker parts of our mind, the shadows grow and fester till the darkness consumes us from the inside out.
A skilfully written and powerful allegory that will keep you ravenous for more till the very last page. I cannot recommend this book enough, please, I urge you, preorder this book (from your local independent bookstore), gift it to a friend, suggest it to your bookclub!
The Monsters in Our Shadows releases 28th February 2023 from Lovecraft Press.
Note: This book has been received as an advanced reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. All views, ratings, and thoughts are my own.