Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
Gallery Books, 2017
Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, Audible
Nick Cutter is one of the hottest names in horror fiction, and for good reason. I have read all four of his books now, and I the praise for each was certainly warranted. I enjoyed The Deep and The Acolyte but his debut novel, The Troop, is outstanding. At a time when major publishers were shy about hardcover horror, this wicked intense, character-rich, body horror novel was a major hit. It worked in part because, despite a modern setting, it felt retro in all the right ways, like a a golden age of horror paperback classic. People rightly compared to it to classic Stephen King. I thought it was an effective and disturbing horror novel that made the best of a lean prose style.
Little Heaven, Cutter’s fourth book, is a masterpiece of horror fiction, and a tribute to the 1980s, even more so than The Troop did. As good as his last two books were, they missed the retro feel that made The Troop special. Although some readers have compared Little Heaven to classic King, it’s more influenced by the work of Clive Barker and Robert McCammon. The setting and characters suggest that Cutter was also influenced by Cormac McCarthy, and the structure and dialogue are reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino. Take all this narrative chemistry, and it adds up to a novel that feels like others, but is actually like nothing I have read before (it’s also nice to see that he has escaped the Bentley Little title disease– finally, a novel that is not The ___ Whatever “.)
Little Heaven is the story of four trained killers given the mission to rescue a young boy whose father has taken him to a compound called Little Heaven, in the New Mexico desert. Cutter clearly has fashioned the cult after real-life cults. We soon learn that the killers are not normal humans. The supernatural elements have a surreal quality that brings to mind early Clive Barker. Monsters, such as the Long Walker, were disturbing in how unnatural they were, yet described so well you can see them in your mind. It’s nothing short of creepy. Cutter creates vivid landscapes, and the horrors pop off the page, causing several cringeworthy moments of supernatural horror.
The narrative switches back and forth from the mid-60s to the 80s, and the structure unrolls the story in an unconventional but very effective manner. We know the four mercenaries survived something which changed them, and they are haunted by what they have seen. As in Robert McCammon’s Gone South, the characters are both scary and hilarious at times. The prose itself is excellent. This novel delivers exactly the feeling of the classics, and causes me to turn the pages, and that’s all I’m asking for. I think this is the best Cutter book to date, and the best horror novel in years. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by David Agranoff
Here’s an audio review David did of Little Heaven with fellow author Anthony Trevino.