Creature by Hunter Shea is a hell of a book. It’s everything you didn’t know you wanted in a horror novel, along with a lot the stuff you love.
If you recommended a poignant novel that depicts life with chronic illness from many perspectives, including the sufferer, the spouse and even the extended family, I probably would pass on it. No offense, it’s just not the kind of thing I normally read. However, if you add a vile monster and throw in some action and gore, now you have my attention. You see, I can appreciate the themes of love, pain, loyalty, perseverance and sacrifice that the character piece offers, I just need it hidden within a horror story. Kind of like when you sneak your dog’s medicine in with a piece of sausage.
Creature is the story of Kate and Andrew. Kate is chronically ill, suffering from a myriad of autoimmune diseases. Andrew, her loving husband, has been her partner and caregiver throughout many years of sickness and difficult treatments. They live under a mountain of stress and anxiety. To get away from it all, they rent a cabin on a lake in tranquil Maine, hoping for a brief escape from their grueling daily routine.
This serene setting seems perfect at first, but things start to go south quickly when something big and loud starts to harass them each night. At first, they suspect an animal, but soon enough they realize something far more sinister and dangerous is out there. Now they must battle the horrific creature that lurks outside and Kate’s disease within. Both are deadly and unforgiving.
If you are familiar with Hunter Shea’s bibliography, you know what to expect. His books are a lot of fun. You usually get a rollicking horror romp with plenty of action and carnage, along a lot of good character work and a few laughs to boot. Creature will not disappoint longtime fans, but this story is a little less over-the-top than many of his previous works. While it’s an entertaining read, the underlying premise of illness, and the toll it can take, is no laughing matter, which gives this book a little more weight.
In Creature, Shea bares his soul to us, giving an intimate look at his personal journey through these characters. It’s very insightful and quite moving. He has also written a rip-roaring horror story that does not pull any punches. He interweaves the two perfectly in a harrowing climax that ties it all together with a solid one-two punch of terror and emotion.
That’s what makes Creature standout. It’s personal. Shea has painted a vivid picture of the life and mindset of a person suffering from chronic illness and the psyche of a caregiver as well. Shea has drawn from personal experience before, see The Waiting, but not quite to this level. (He even shares a bit of his real-life story in the postscript of this book.)
Bottom line, Creature is a great book. Now, you might be a little skeptical of my opinion because Hunter Shea is a long-time friend of mine and I co-host two horror themed podcasts with him. You may think I’m a little biased. I guess that’s for you to decide. I’m just trying to recommend a good book to you.
Buckle up and check it out. That’s my advice.