Southern Gods: Gave me serious nightmares

fantasy book reviews John Hornor Jacobs Southern Godsfantasy book reviews John Hornor Jacobs Southern GodsSouthern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs

Bull Ingram is a very big fellow. He’s a former Marine who is still a little raw from the war like most men in the early 1950s. Bull works as paid muscle and his primary job is finding people who owe his employers money. When he finds them, he “convinces” them to pay back their debts. He is very good at his job. A folk music dealer wants Bull to locate a mysterious blues man by the name of Ramblin’ John Hastur. Hastur’s music has strange effects on those who listen to it, and Bull’s new employer wants him found. The job leads Bull down a strange and violent path through the underbelly of the 1950’s American South.

John Hornor Jacobs sets a furious pace in Southern Gods. It doesn’t let up till you hit the epilogue. I was sent an audio copy of this from Brilliance Audio, and I was so desperate to keep reading the story that I actually purchased the Kindle version to read on my phone when I was not able to listen to the audio. While reading this book I ran a gamut of emotions. I was excited, amused, scared, and also totally disturbed. I’ve read some messed-up stuff, and Southern Gods was the first to give me serious nightmares.

The heroes of the story battle evil foes and make the occasional bad joke in classic urban fantasy style. The story also contains some truly horrific scenes of violence. Some of it was hard for me to handle — and I’m an avid Joe Abercrombie fan. The frightening and disturbing parts fall well within the horror category of fiction, but the campy urban fantasy moments didn’t always mesh with the disturbing horror, thus creating a kind of identity crisis.

I recommend Southern Gods to fans of both horror and dark fantasy. At 300 pages it is a bit short. With some more space I believe Jacobs would have made the story flow even more smoothly. I would also recommend the audiobook version published by Brilliance Audio. The story is read by Eric Dove, and he is amazing. A voice actor can make or break a story, and Eric made this book a thrill to listen to. I will certainly look into other books he’s voiced.

Southern Gods — (2011) Publisher: Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin’ John Hastur. The mysterious blues man’s dark, driving music — broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station — is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur’s trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he’ll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell… In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER retired from FanLit in September 2012 after entertaining us for 3 years. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

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6 comments

  1. Eeeeek! A book that disturbed the guy who loves Abercrombie and the Brothers Grossbart? Yikes!

  2. Yeah, I was waiting on this to hear how you liked it. I am tempted, but I don’t think I could handle it.

  3. I have this one– but I’m nervous to really get into it. The most disturbing book I’ve read, so far, was “Neuropath” by Scott Bakker. If this one treads into similar territory I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it.

  4. Justin- You had me intrigued when you told me how excited you were about this one. Ditto what Kelly said.

    While I love all things Abercrombie -his violence doesn’t disturb me-, but events in Burlington’s Grossbard Bros didn’t bug me so much as just made me hate the guys so much that I just wanted to kill them instead of read about them.

    So I’m not sure how I’d like this book or not. I’m not usually a horror fan… Hmmmmm…

  5. The book is deceptive. It feels like a normal Urban Fantasy…then it just surprises you. The horrible moments are brief though…but they kind of stick with you. It’s actually the last 1/4 of the book that probably got me the most.

  6. I felt like sqt about it — the blurb made me nervous. :)

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