Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn

Published by JournalStone

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Cover art by Trevor Henderson.

“A full-throttle descent into visceral terror, Shelter for the Damned grabs you by the throat and never lets go. This haunting tale heralds the arrival of Mike Thorn as a horror writer to watch.”
— Jeffrey Reddick, creator of Final Destination

“A terrifying descent into suburban addiction and male shame, Shelter for the Damned is a gripping, uncanny tale cut from the same cloth as Stephen King and John Carpenter.”
— Daniel Goldhaber, director of Cam (Netflix)

“Impressive is an understatement. Mike Thorn is a fresh voice in horror with a distinct vision well worth your attention.”
— John Claude Smith, author of Occasional Beasts: Tales and the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated Riding the Centipede

Publication Date: 26th February 2021

This is one of those books where I have to confess that while I enjoyed it, I know I missed a lot of what the author was trying to say – there’s a lot of things left open to the reader’s interpretation and I’m awful at that.

Mark is a teenage boy who’s been struggling with violent and disruptive urges in school, he’s acting out and while looking for a secluded place to smoke with his friends, they find a shack in the middle of a field.

The second he steps inside, he develops an obsession with the place and the way it makes him feel, which  leads him to return time and time again though his friends don’t understand it. As time passes, we begin to see that the shack itself has sentience and influences Mark’s actions – points to me here though, even I could see the reference to addiction here! I’m cashing those points in now though because I missed every other hidden message after that.

The horror in this story works in two ways – evil shack and the violent behaviours of a suburban teenager. I’ve always been terrified of suburbia anyway, people mask their weirdness in order to fit in and I find it comparable to when a dog doesn’t raise its hackles or growl before attacking…

The parents in this story are varying degrees of abusive and disinterested, notably Mark’s parents turn a blind eye to the idea that the way they treat him might be related to his behaviour.
Between them and an evil sentient shed (yeah, I said it.), I did wonder if he was suffering from a mental illness but I’m leaning towards the evil being real.

The writing was excellent – the author fits multiple layers to the story while making Mark a sympathetic character, despite being the weird and aggressive kid in class. I couldn’t wait to find out where the story was heading and was satisfied with the ending.

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