“The sight of atrocities and mayhem so vile the human brain could not hope, nor dare, to fathom. The atmosphere was physically suffocating, humid, rank, fetid, and spiritually noxious. It hung over the team like a wormy shroud, draped over them, filling their hearts with a foul black sap and their souls with something putrid.”
– Grimweave (Page 81)
From Amazon: In the deepest, darkest jungles of Indochina, an ancient evil is waiting in a forgotten, primeval valley. It is patient, monstrous, and bloodthirsty. Perfectly adapted to its hot, steaming environment, it strikes silent and stealthy, it chosen prey: human. Now Michael Spiers, a Marine sniper, the only survivor of a previous encounter with the beast, is going after it again. Against his better judgement, he is made part of a Marine Force Recon team that will hunt it down and destroy it. The hunters are about to become the hunted.
I mean sure, this is fine. ‘Vietnam’ would’ve worked instead of ‘Indochina’, it requires a flexible definition of what one might consider to be ‘evil’, something can’t be ‘forgotten’ if people keep traipsing through it, being the ‘only survivor’ isn’t quite as harrowing when there were only two of you to begin with, there is very little by way of better judgement throughout the book, and the whole point is kind of that the hunters have been hunted for a very long time, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
The Writing Style
I’ve read quite a few of Tim Curran’s books, and a general issue present in each of his works is a register completely unsuited to the subject matter. While Grimweave is certainly not the worst offender (that dubious honour must go to Hag Night), it still pops up too much to make the book entirely enjoyable.
Let me explain why this writing style is often so jarring. Grimweave, for all its verbosity, is a story about monsters. Big, nasty, unimaginable monsters and the brave little people who tap into great wells of human spirit that they never knew they had to defeat the nightmares that lurk in dark corners. It’s not anything new and it’s not a groundbreaking take on this well-worn genre, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be. Monster stories can be fun if the author can find the balance between visceral horror and the triumph of the human spirit. I’ve included some of my favourite examples below of just how far Tim Curran went out of his way to not strike that balance:
“Spiers just stood there, the hot air swimming around him like ectoplasm.” (Page 19)
“Suddenly that smell… assailed his nostrils… It started to grow stronger and stronger, a threatening, boiling miasma.” (Page 38)
“…the pressure of its form that turned the air thin and suffocating… turning the world into some putrid envelope of malignance.” (Page 55)
“The creature was beyond anything he could imagine. It was like some immense force of nature. Thunder. Lightning. Storm winds. Earthquakes. A relentless, elemental wrath.” (Page 88)
“…and there was a hole leading down into the earth. A black and putrescent effluvium wafted up out of there.” (Page 110)
Beyond my blanket thought of “this is stupid”, the language choice also, in my opinion, would seem to imply or ask things that the book, in all its 145 pages, cannot hope to answer, with the author choosing instead to throw big words at the reader so that the atmosphere or events described are just so, without going into any meaningful detail.
I’ll explain my point with reference to some of the quotes above. An awful lot of effort goes into explaining the horrific smell that the creatures give off, and it’s a telling sign that they’re approaching our rag tag little group. At no point, however, is any indication given as to why the things smells that way, with the description being used to underline the creatures’ inherent evil, apparently relying on some innate sixth sense all of the characters possess to tell us this, without ever examining the creatures’ actual motivations. The same goes for the “relentless, elemental wrath” – the character describing this has not actually seen the creature in question and knows nothing about it with the exception of its monumental size.
It seems a bit arse-backwards to go critique the plot and characters at this point, but I felt that explaining the writing style first would highlight where Grimweave goes wrong. In essence what this all amounts to, despite what the big words would try and imply, is lazy writing.
The book takes place during the Vietnam War. Anyone with any knowledge of this period knows that the jungles of Vietnam were certainly not pleasant, so the author already had that going for him. He also makes use of the fact that whenever the creatures are in a particular part of the jungle everything goes deathly quiet. This is entirely unnatural and if used correctly could have been effectively used to build tension as the characters come into increasingly violent contact with the things hunting them. Relying instead on big words, some of which are out of place or entirely redundant, to try and sledgehammer atmosphere and tension into existence just doesn’t have the same effect.
The characters themselves are also nothing to write home about. Each one is a 2D stereotype of some form of army personnel from that period, and each is so unlikable that the reader (or at least this reader) doesn’t particular care which particular yahoo the creatures pick off next. Going back to the writing style, I also don’t believe that a sociopathic marine grunt whose only ambition in life is to stick a machete into something living would think in terms of being suffocated by putrid miasmas.
Grimweave could’ve been a really fun if unextraordinary read. The concept is solid and the descriptions of the creatures ripe for some good, bloody action. Uninteresting characters, bizarre writing style and an out-of-nowhere ending, however, means that I can’t in good conscience give this a solid recommendation.
My rating: 2/5
Buy Grimweave on Amazon.