Our A Black and Endless Sky book review is a spoiler-free look the visceral horror novel by Matthew Lyons.
I’m a newcomer to the horror genre. I didn’t read any of it when I was younger (even Goosebumps was too scary), but the arduous march into my thirties has turned me bitter, and I’ve found myself drawn to stories that shake loose the monotony of everyday life.
As most people know, there’s something cathartic about being scared in the comfort of your own home, knowing you can simply step away from that book/movie/show/video game and be perfectly safe.
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t read many of the classics. I’m not a Stephen King buff, I’ve never read Clive Barker, and I think I own one Dean Koontz novel, which has sat—untouched—on one of my bookshelves for a decade or more.
All of this is to say that I’m not an expert on what’s good or bad in the horror genre, what’s been done and overdone. All I know is what scares me and what I enjoy reading. I couldn’t tell you what Matthew Lyons or any other horror author drew on for inspiration, but I can tell you what sends a shiver down my spine.
A Black and Endless Sky certainly did that. This tale begins on uneven footing—Jonah and his wife are divorcing, so his sister, Nell, shows up in her clunker, ready to move him back home to Albuquerque.
Seems straight forward enough, right? Well, Nell and Jonah aren’t exactly close, and both have a chip on their shoulder. Jonah just wants to be left alone, and Nell doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. It doesn’t take much for either of them to get under the other’s skin.
Matthew Lyons brings a realistic dialog to the book that’s full of quips and gut-punches. Nell and Jonah feel like siblings who don’t want to talk but always want to get the last word in. Their history and subsequent falling-out comes to light throughout the book, but you don’t need that information to pick up on how labyrinthine their relationship is.
And it doesn’t take long for that relationship to get even more complicated. During their first rest stop, Nell drives them to a biker bar and stirs up some serious trouble. Somehow, they walk away from the incident, but it chases them for the rest of the book.
In that regard, the pacing is pedal-to-the-metal from the first few chapters and rarely lets up. Not only does the author build mystery and suspense as each piece of the truth slots into pace, but he keeps the action high and the stakes even higher.
I wasn’t joking when I said this is a visceral read. I need to take a moment out of this A Black and Endless Sky book review to really drive home the fact that this book is not for the faint-hearted. It’s full of blood and guts, and as soon as you think these characters can’t take another punch, the universe aims a gun at their head.
I have a pretty strong stomach, and nothing in here quite made it turn over, but even so, Lyons has a way with words. He can paint a picture so vivid and real that you can practically see and smell and taste and hear and feel the way the characters come apart at the seams. If that’s what you’re into, you’re gonna find a lot to love here.
But the horror isn’t all gore. No, plenty of it is psychological as well, and I have to hand it to the author for finding a way to balance the two. Many writers and filmmakers stick to one or the other—slashers and psychological thrillers are two distinct categories, after all—but Lyons combines the two in order to give us a panoramic view of what exactly is going on here.
Not long after the biker bar incident, Jonah wakes up from a nap in the passenger seat of the car, completely alone. He’s in the middle of the desert, the driver’s side door is open, and the keys are still in the ignition. His sister is gone.
The siblings’ past, present, and future converge in an interesting way to complete the cycle of this story, but if anything is the inciting incident, it’s this. Jonah follows Nell’s footsteps across the sand, down a hole, and into an otherworldly cavern. He finds her unconscious body and single-handedly drags her back to the surface.
This is where the true terror begins.
As I said before, I’m no expert, but I’ve never read a book that made me feel as unnerved as a horror movie has. Film has the advantage of a jarring soundtrack to back its horrifying visuals.
A book simply has words. That’s not to discount one or the other, but as someone who recently found out she still falls for the jumpscares in Luigi’s Mansion (no, I’m no exaggerating), I find it much easier to read my horror rather than watch it play out on screen.
That being said, Matthew Lyons knows how to use words to his advantage. From skittering sounds in the darkness and shadows that transform into living nightmares, to bloody, decaying ghosts and demons older than anything we could imagine, A Black and Endless Sky will have you reconsidering turning off the light as you tuck yourself in for the night.
Better than any thrills and chills Lyons throws at us, however, is the story he weaves along the way. I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this A Black and Endless Sky book review to drive home the fact that the author is a master of his craft. Even by the final confrontation, I didn’t know who to root for, invested in all of their stories as I was.
This book gave me everything I wanted and more, and by the time I finished the final page, I was both satisfied and unnerved. The hallmark of a great horror read.
‘A Black and Endless Sky’ hit store shelves on March 15, 2022
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