PROGENY by Shaun Hutson

Can you imagine what it would be like not to have any memory of your first ten years of life?

Jake Howard knows how that feels.  He’s a successful psychiatrist and writer.  He has an apparently adoring lover and the respect of his peers. But he also has a huge gap where his childhood memories should be.  What’s more, Jake is tormented by the worst kind of nightmares.  Nightmares he’s not even sure are his.

Tormented by dreams and visions that threaten his sanity, he must find their source in order to understand and banish them.

His hunt will take him to a run-down seaside town, to the place where he was raised and also forty years back in time, to what he must confront to release himself from the grip of the visions and also to discover the hidden memories.

However, he will discover things about himself he did not dare imagine.  Things he really didn’t want to know.

And he will also discover that not everyone is what they appear to be.  Those revelations will expose a darkness and horror that no one should have to confront.

Sometimes a lie is preferable.

Some truth is best left undiscovered…

The IndieMuse Review

Progeny is the thirty-ninth book published by prolific British horror writer Shaun Hutson.  Although released as a stand-alone novel, Progeny is a sequel to Spawn (1983), and, as such, the publishers commissioned the same artist, Mark Taylor, to design its cover which unmistakably links the two works.

Progeny opens very strongly with the prologue setting the scene for the mystery that will follow and a first chapter that stuns with its sudden brutality.  I was hooked.

The author states that his “inspirations were always and still are cinematic,” and I thought this came through clearly in his work.  Narrated in the third person, Progeny comprises short chapters that alternate between the two main characters, unfolding the main storyline and a couple of subplots, like scenes in a movie.  The writing is engaging, sharp, and driven by a small cast of characters who are mostly dislikable and with few, if any, redeeming features, yet memorable.

I enjoyed the premise which revolved around nightmares, repressed memories, and trauma, as well as the persistent dark undertone, with a good balance of horror, gore, mystery, sleeze, and deception.  However, several scenes felt superfluous (for instance the repeated visits to Jake’s mother and their interactions) and the main subplot seemed to have been created purely to place a particular character in a specific situation at the climax of the story.  Several subplots did not come to much and the overall ending felt somewhat rushed and predictable.

I found an interview where the author said that he writes “fast” and “out of sequence” too.

A scene I feel like writing one day might not come until half way through the book but I’ll do it nonetheless and then hope I can use it later.  It’s more like making a film I suppose.  Not everything is shot in sequence.  My next book, Progeny, is a good example of that.  I was going backwards and forwards all the time adding bits and writing new chapters to slot in (trying to make it make sense!!).

Shaun Hutson, from The Horror Channel Interview

I felt this is definitely reflected in this work, and I was particularly distracted by the inconsistency in the ages of three characters: when we are first introduced to Jake Howard we are told he is 48 years old (ch. 4), then we are told he is 56 (ch. 9), then he is about 45 or 46 (ch. 34), and again around 58 as we are first told he is “twice” (ch. 35) and then “almost twice” (ch. 51) Dani’s age, who is 29 in chapters 5, 14, 24, 101, but 25 in chapter 60 (in fact, ch. 51 had told us that was when they had met).  Similarly, Jake’s daughter is introduced to us as an 18-year old (ch. 14), but is then referred to as being 22 (ch. 60). These inconsistencies, as well as a few others (such as ‘Jake’ being called ‘Jason’ in chapter 20 when laughing about the price of flags) should have been picked up at the editing stage and let Hutson’s story-telling down unnecessarily.

As a word of warning, chapter one deals in gruesome detail with the slaughter of newborn babies, however this is an isolated occurrence and not a theme of this book; in fact, I was left wondering about its relevance and felt that the motivation behind it was never explained—that scene seemed to be there simply for shock-value, which it fully achieves.

Overall this is a highly entertaining disturbing tale that kept me turning pages and spurred me to find out more about the author, Shaun Hutson, and his back-catalogue, starting with Spawn to get to the inception of Progeny.

FLORA BELLINI

Flora is an avid fan of horror, crime and has a fascination with serial killers and the human psyche. She has a wicked sense of humour, and has a particular interest in nutrition, law, politics, photography, the arts, and pizza. She is a little animal mad, rescuing cats from across the EU. Flora is always on the lookout to broaden her horizons, and is a mental health, and equalities champion.