Review: “Sinkhole,” April A. Taylor

Pros: Decent basic storyline
Cons: Downright silly; unlikable characters
Rating: 3 out of 5

SPOILER WARNING: I’m afraid that I just can’t review this one without dropping a few spoilers in.

April A. Taylor’s horror novella Sinkhole: A Horror Story starts with 8-year-old Allison nearly being swallowed by a sinkhole that mysteriously opens in her lawn in Michigan. She believes something in the hole tried to drag her down into it. Her mother Carol and her alcoholic father Scott decide to bug out once the news reports that this is happening all over the place. Meanwhile, twins Rachel and Ivy Meador visit West Virginia to research their genealogy, only for Rachel to be bitten by a crazed deer. Neighbor Thad shoots the deer and drives the girls to the hospital, where many more people are being brought in–and Rachel is showing severe signs of illness. In Pennsylvania, there’s a mostly-abandoned town that has long-running coal fires burning beneath it. There, holes in the earth open up and flames overtake the town. Jill and Doreen Sabinski (a lesbian couple) grab their homophobic neighbor Don and his truck and head out of town. Unfortunately, he’s so driven by the desire to screw them over for their sinners’ ways that he gets them picked up by law enforcement, even though he’s injured and thus can’t drive his truck himself. In Oregon, Crandall runs a compound of cultists called the Devotees. When he sets two of his followers to digging holes and a bunch more open up on their own, he decides God is on their side.

It’s a horror story where the Earth decides she’s tired of our crap and sets about culling us. There’s even a section of text where we hear the thoughts of various animals and trees and such as they cackle over getting rid of those awful humans. This makes the whole thing seem really silly. Without that section it would have been much creepier; this just made it laughable. Also, there’s no reason given for why individual sinkholes and sentient tree roots are the main route of this rout, given that the Earth could just move a few tectonic plates (or, as apparently happens in China, drown everyone with a ton of rain). There’s no reason given for why the Earth is content to kill off a fraction of the population rather than everyone. Also, what’s with the weird illness that everyone who’s bitten by animals seems to pick up, and that turns some (but not all) of them into quasi-zombies?

The characters are universally unlikable. I particularly couldn’t see how Crandall could possibly be charismatic enough to have all of his Devotees swooning over his every attention. He just didn’t come across that way at all.

The basic structure of people running away from animals and national disasters was good, but this book needed more than that.

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