Ginger Nuts of Horror
By George Ilett Anderson
Cuts like a Razor
After reading Karen Runge’s “Seeing Double”, the immediate thought that springs to mind is that psychological horror often leaves the best scars. This, her startling debut novel from Grey Matters Press, is the kind of reading experience that left me feeling rather battered and bruised by story’s end.
Set in Asia, the book is about the trio of Ada, Daniel and Neven who form a fragile predatory relationship with one another and the world at large that increasingly turn parasitic until it threatens to consume them from within. Driven on by their voracious lust for inflicting pain, control and suffering, the trio prey on unsuspecting travellers subjecting them to sexual abuse and torture before disposing of what remains. To call “Seeing Double” uncomfortable and harrowing would be an understatement. It is a novel that takes an unflinching look at the effects and consequences of abuse and is probably one of the most deeply unsettling and disturbing books that I’ve read this year.
There are moments in this novel that are just toe curling to read. That leaves you with the distinct impression that you are witnessing three extremely damaged people who have gone far beyond the point of all return. Yet despite an overwhelming sense of revulsion at the three, Runge manages to elicit a modicum of compassion towards her human monsters. These are people who have endured pasts that haunt them on a daily basis. A point reinforced by the ghosts that seem to be shadowing their every move as their relationship starts to increasingly sour and deteriorate.
I don’t think I can quite begin to state how good the writing on display here is. It takes a rare skill to create empathy for people bereft of anything remotely resembling humanity but Runge’s writing is sharp and precise like a scalpel; progressively peeling back the layers to expose what makes the lead characters tick. It’s a feeling made more pronounced by the warped and twisted love story that forms the backbone of the novel as Daniel, Ada and Neven struggle with their feelings towards each other and their own inner demons.
It’s the kind of storytelling that really gets under your skin, making your flesh crawl at the thought of feeling sympathy for the devil. A stark and disturbing journey into some of the deeper and darker recesses of the human condition, “Seeing Double” will leave an indelible stain on your psyche.