Severed

Severed by Joshua Marsella

In this prequel to Scratches, the members of Third Squad are sent on a recon mission to Northern Vietnam in 1967. Their squad leader, Sgt. George Hanscott, has to make the difficult decision to disobey his unit’s direct orders putting his squad’s lives at risk, or help a local fishing village end the terror that’s been plaguing them for over a century. Will his decision backfire or will his squad of US Marines be able to destroy the evil entity they don’t quite understand?

Will we find out how George became such a heinous monster? Do we really want to know?

The IndieMuse Review

Severed, the recently released prequel story set decades prior to the original novella, Scratches, moves the action into 1967 in the midst of the war in Vietnam for a story that both sets itself apart from what precedes it, and delivers the same bleak gut-punch of a story that fans of that novella would expect.

George Hanscott is the leader of a squad sent on a recon mission that takes them to a remote fishing village. Whilst there, they hear stories of a local outcast who is believed to be entering the settlement in the dead of night, stealing children from their families and disappearing without a trace. When a young baby is taken while the squad are sleeping, Hanscott makes the difficult decision to stay and help find the child and put a stop to the evil plaguing the locals.

What first seems to be a straightforward mission soon proves to be a descent into a hell that not even the horrors of war have adequately prepared these men for. The evil that waits for them deep in the jungles of Vietnam is no mere man, but an age-old evil with plans for the squad and its leader.

The name George Hanscott should sound familiar to those who have read Scratches and it’s certainly a bold choice to base a whole book around this character. It turns out to also be an inspired one. It was interesting to see the ‘origins’ of him and I was pleasantly surprised that Marsella took the character in directions I did not expect.

Speaking of Scratches, having read both in fairly quick succession I can safely say that Severed is a big improvement. I enjoyed Scratches and particularly connected with the pop culture references, but Severed just feels far more polished and accomplished, juggling a far larger cast of characters and a much larger scale. It is a big improvement made all the more impressive by the fact that the two were published only nine months apart.

If you haven’t read Scratches yet, fear not! Severed works absolutely fine as a stand-alone story. In fact, I think it may make for a better story if this is your first introduction to this world, as the burden of knowledge completely changes the reading experience. I would imagine most people would have found Severed to be a nail-biting, action-packed horror thrill ride in the vein of Predator or Platoon with added monster, but given this is a prequel to a book I’d already read, made the overall tone one of downbeat inevitability by knowing what the book’s endgame had to be to lead into the next. This isn’t a criticism. The inexorable creeping toward an unavoidable outcome fits well with the grim tone and unwavering ugliness of the world that Marsella has created with this series and it is the sign of a great book that you can have two entirely different experiences with it, depending on how clued up you are before getting started.

A dark and twisted prequel to an equally harrowing debut, Severed is grisly, gory and gloriously bleak. Fans will be treated with more of everything they loved about Scratches, dialled up to eleven, while newcomers are in for a wild, unpredictable ride. Read at your own peril!

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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