Review: “The Gulp,” Alan Baxter

Rating: 5 out of 5

I love Alan Baxter’s work–especially his horror–and The Gulp: Tales From The Gulp 1 is a collection of five stories about a remote Australian town with a whole lot of secrets. The town of Gulpepper is known by the locals as “the Gulp.” It’s quaint and beautiful, and sometimes outsiders wonder why it isn’t a tourist destination. But if you go there, you’ll be lucky to get out again.

I do have to warn you: there’s an arc-plot that wends its way through the five stories, and it’s a semi-cliffhanger at the end. (AGH!) It just brings us to the brink of understanding the arc plot, then leaves us hanging. Thank goodness it looks like there’ll be at least one more book after this one.

In “Out On a Rim,” a trucker (George) is so desperate to get out of the Gulp by nightfall that he ends up with a flat tire. His replacement-to-be, Rich, ignores George’s warnings to stay away from the town and decides to go drinking, get some food, and sleep in a real bed. As predicted by George, Richard doesn’t make it back before George leaves town. I found this one quite interesting and unexpected.

In “Mother In Bloom,” teenaged siblings Maddy and Zack have to cope not only with their horrible mother’s death, but also with the strange growth that takes over her body. Soon Zack starts to hear his mother’s voice whispering, telling him to bring people to her. The events of this story definitely come back later in the book.

In “The Band Plays On,” four backpackers stay in town for a performance by a band they’ve never heard of: Blind Eye Moon. By the time the first song is over, they’re wondering why the group isn’t world-famous! When the band suggests they come to an afterparty, and afterwards convinces them to stay a while, one backpacker, Patrick, notices some worrying changes in his three friends. My favorite part is that the band is “always in character.” The backpackers never see them without their, umm, makeup.

“48 To Go” introduces us to Dace, who gets robbed of something very expensive that doesn’t belong to him. Carter, who seems to be something of a crime boss in town, gives him 48 hours to come up with $60k. When Dace hears that a particular couple in town supposedly has a big stash of money in their house, he’s desperate enough to try robbing them. Yeah, things aren’t exactly going to go to plan.

“Rock Fisher” has hobby-fisherman Troy pull up something very weird from the sea: an egg, perhaps, with something moving inside of it. As he becomes more and more obsessed with the egg, it starts to change him. Things from each of the other stories drift into this one as the plots collide.

This is a wonderful cosmic horror book, and I love interconnected stories like this. I just wish the ending had gone a bit further!

Content note: minor amount of torture and mutilation. Off-the-page incest and sex.

“So it begins.”

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