Little Heaven. Nick Cutter. 2017.
Three guns for hire. Loners haunted by rough pasts.
Minerva: No man can kill her, although she wishes one would.
Ebenezer: The Gardener. A cultured man of color who screams himself awake every night.
Micah: One-eyed. Solid and steadfast. An enigmatic ex-soldier.
In 1965, they fail to kill each other and end up forming a strange and deadly team. They sign on to help Ellen infiltrate a religious compound and check on her nephew’s welfare. What they find in Little Heaven is anything but.
Led by a charismatic, disturbed preacher, Little Heaven is slowly descending into hell. In the remote New Mexico desert, in the shadow of a toxic black monolith, the compound’s land is dying. Reverend Flesher’s followers are weirdly drained. Their kids are developing a penchant for cruelty. In the surrounding woods, revolting abominations creep closer and closer.
The unspeakable events that take place in Little Heaven in ’65 set into motion a showdown with an obscene evil fifteen years later. Flashing forward to 1980: Micah’s daughter is stolen away by the same nightmarish monstrosity that ended up taking the children from Little Heaven. Payback.
Cutter tells a great story. Bold, black-and-white illustrations help create an almost a Tarantino-esque, new-old-west vibe to the tale: with modern outlaws driving Oldsmobiles through small, tired desert towns. But these outlaws are fighting each other, themselves, and a malignant supernatural force. The two story threads years apart pace each other tightly and come to horrific peaks at almost the same time.
Be warned, however: The eeew factor of Little Heaven is high. Cutter pulls no punches. The number of things you can’t mentally unsee – and I was heartily wishing I could unsee some of them – is huge. Every bodily fluid, body part (human and animal), gross insect, and disgusting combination of these that you can think of, Cutter has thought of already and shares in profound and revolting detail. This is a “wet” book: graphic, grisly and gory. Cutter bombards all the virtual five senses, not even excepting taste, with over-the-top, cringe-worthy descriptions.
Scrape away the gore, however, and you find the bones of a solid story. Cutter’s writing is immediate and compelling. The main characters are unique with nicely fleshed-out backstories. You come to care about them, these bad-guys-turned-kinda-good. They have heart. Tarnished, but true.
On an even deeper level, Little Heaven explores the nature of evil. Is there a finite amount of evil in the world? Does evil draw evil to itself? Is its nature changeable? Is there such a thing as karmic payback? Little Heaven raises all of these questions while wading hip-deep through the raw wages of sin and retribution.
A gripping story: not for the squeamish.