Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk is a character-driven tale of cosmic horror that reminds readers that there are dark, dangerous, possible futures lurking on the horizon, unexplainable, inescapable, beyond human comprehension.
Jesse Wheeler, former guitarist for a heavy metal band called The Rising Dead, is a sellout. He gave up his musical pipe dream to become a commercial jingle writer. However, he has two good reasons–a wife and a disabled son who count on his support. Jesse is a good guy with a raunchy backstory of sex, booze, drugs, and rock and roll. He has been living on the straight and narrow for seven years. One bad decision changes everything; he reads a cursed book. He was warned, but he read it anyway. On the night of a successful Rising Dead ten-year reunion, his life path goes sideways. While driving home from the concert, Jesse’s car dies. He quickly finds himself being attacked by tire-iron wielding backwoods mechanics. After a prolonged attempt to escape, he is eventually captured and wakes on an examination table in an underground torture chamber that operates like an alternate universe. Thus, he begins his true journey. He must fight for survival and to get home to his family.
The most notable aspect of the book is the main character Jesse Wheeler. The first-person point of view allows readers an intimate, honest access into his thoughts. This character is unconditionally developed. His voice is real, accurate, and honest, offering entré into the life of a rocker with nothing held back. Readers will wonder how the author gained such detailed insight into this ill-fated personality. Kirk manages to reveal the character in a natural, unstrained way. Jesse possesses deep insight into his past and its ramifications. Many of his thoughts are perceptive, often philosophical. His number one drive is to protect his family and perhaps to gain redemption along the way.
Although the cursed book or item trope is not an original concept on which to base a plot, the unique protagonist in Will Haunt You tells the tale from a distinctive, quirky perspective, thereby creating a denaturalizing effect. The plot becomes somehow new. Since the story is driven by a single, marginalized character, it lacks complexity except for a short episode that includes Jesse’s wife and child. A diary episode interrupts the flow and fragments the plot trajectory, but it manages to add intertextuality to the mix, which fans of postmodernism will enjoy. The only significant weakness in the plot are the torture scenes which may appear pointless or repetitive to some. However, readers who enjoy the genre will dig in, hoping to find meaning or the possibility of commentary on modern society.
The prose is smooth, conversational, and easy to read. All aspects of the text are on the surface and thus lack the inclusion of the finer things of literature such as symbolism and sub-textual undercurrents. However, one could say that the entire journey is a metaphor that attempts to warn readers to closely consider their life choices before it’s too late, before they must strive for redemption.
The audience most likely to enjoy Will Haunt You might be a younger crowd that will identify with the protagonist and relish a truly disturbing tale of cosmic adventure.
The cosmic question might be whether reading any book can change a reader. Many would say the answer is a resounding yes.