Short Take: “The Festering Ones,” S.H. Cooper

Pros: Engaging and original
Rating: 5 out of 5

S.H. Cooper’s novella The Festering Ones is a short piece of cosmic horror that’s a lot of fun. Young Faith went on a hunting trip with her father, only to see him pulled beneath the ground by a monster. No one believed her of course, or so she thought–when she went through her dead mother’s things years later, she found research notes that indicated her mother did believe her. Those notes lead her to a mysterious cult called The Gathered, as well as two other women who are missing loved ones: Janice and Sasha. The three of them jet off to Florida, where they find a second cult devoted to a rival entity. Faith discovers that her time looking into The Gathered has marked her, and these strong women are pulled into a deadly battle.

I love the main characters. They’re three imperfect-yet-strong women, determined to do what they can for their loved ones. They go through hell and we can only hope they’ll come out the other side intact. Faith is an excellent lead. She realizes she’s in over her head, but she isn’t willing to sit down and give up.

The worldbuilding is excellent. There’s a whole ecosystem of entities and worlds and monsters. The author doesn’t derail the story to talk about them–she lets them come out naturally in the tale. The cultists themselves are also a bit unusual. They aren’t your stereotypical nut-jobs at all, which I love. Faith ends up in contact with one of them, and the dynamic is intriguing.

This book may have my favorite ending of a horror novella ever!

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