The Ritual Meets The Thing
Sci-Fi horror is a big favorite of mine and while it is easy to point to many examples of the sub-genre being done exceptionally in film, it sometimes feels sadly underused in literature outside of big-name media tie-ins. It is always a thrill to discover a new book that delivers in this regard, and The Unwelcome by Jacob Steven Mohr is a fantastic example of how it can be done in a new and unique way.
Kait Brecker has gone through a traumatic break-up with her boyfriend, Lutz, and he has not taken it well. Falling back into the familiar routine of a once treasured friendship, Kait has agreed to an impromptu trip with best friend Alice and her new boyfriend Ben to a remote cabin for a quiet and peaceful getaway. Miles from the nearest road and more than fifty away from any kind of civilization, the trip promises some distance from her problems, both figuratively and literally.
Lutz has other plans for Kait. When he shows up unexpectedly at a roadside gas station on the groups drive down to the cabin, a series of events is set in motion that will turn their idyllic break into a nightmarish descent into madness. Lutz is no ordinary man. He is capable of inhabiting people’s bodies at will and when nobody knows who to trust, and with no help coming, the group must find a way to stop a malevolent force that they cannot see before it destroys them all.
The pacing of The Unwelcome is methodical throughout, the first half of the book being a tense character-driven drama, until a shocking scene that reveals some potentially supernatural elements. From then, there is still little in the way of action, but that works in the book’s favor in a lot of ways. There are very few points in the story where it is clear which, if any, character has been ‘taken over’ by Lutz and to show its hand would break the tension. When the action does come, it is sudden, unexpected and brutal, and is all the more shocking for the quiet, contemplative build-up to these sections of the book.
It is bizarre yet oddly thrilling to read such a character-driven book, where you’re never sure who the character really is. It gives the whole thing a surreal, jarring quality that is enhanced by flashbacks and dream sequences that pepper the story and add depth to what may have otherwise been a taut but straightforward horror thriller. It’s a book that requires careful reading, as it does not give its secrets away easily, but it is one that rewards patience in a big way.
The Unwelcome is a tense, claustrophobic slow burn that will keep you guessing until the final page. The Sci-Fi elements add an ‘anything goes’ unpredictability to proceedings while horror fans will not be let down by either the scare factor or the blood quota. What really elevates however is the laser focus on character, made all the more impressive and immersive by the fact that we can never be quite sure whether any of them are who they say they are…
The Unwelcome by Jacob Steven Mohr
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After a chance roadside meeting, he pursues her into the foothills, revealing the monster under his skin for the first time: a malevolent body-snatching entity bent on tearing Kait’s life to pieces.
DescriptionKait Brecker can’t remember the last time she didn’t feel like busted glass. Her volcanic temper’s scared off her friends, and a miserable breakup with her boyfriend Lutz left her crippled with guilt and painful memories. So when she learns her childhood best friend is planning a sojourn to a secluded mountain cabin, Kait jumps at the chance to tag along, convinced that rekindling this fractured friendship will fix whatever’s breaking down inside her. She should have known… Lutz would never let her go that easily. After a chance roadside meeting, he pursues her into the foothills, revealing the monster under his skin for the first time: a malevolent body-snatching entity bent on tearing Kait’s life to pieces. Now, with miles of silent forest between them and salvation and Lutz overpowering one terrified camper after the next, Kait must unite her estranged friends against this horrifying threat before the shadows of her past devour her life for good.
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