I’m not sure where I first heard of Kristi DeMeester.
I’m pretty sure I read a short story of hers somewhere, and then saw Beneath and bought it right away. (This is why I think writing short stories is as much marketing as anything else)
Beneath tells the story of a reporter, Cora, who goes to a small town to investigate a strange Christian sect that use snakes in their sermons, the theory being that if you are free of sin the snakes will not bite.
Cora soon finds more than she thought, as the cult is actually based on a Cthulhu-esque sleeping worm-god that has permeated the body of a mother and daughter. The quiet creepiness of the beginning quickly turns into all-out horror as the worm-god asserts its influence and Cora fights for her life and her sanity, aided by the repentant snake-pastor Michael, though he’s really not much help. This is very much Cora’s fight and Cora’s book.
Kristi writes with a fury, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the more disturbing imagery, be it gore or body-horror (with erotic undertones). As the world starts slipping into the the grips of the worm-god cult, we slip along with it, through Cora’s point of view. She becomes a rather unreliable narrator for parts of the book but this adds to the experience of Beneath, as we feel our own grip on the what’s going on slip. Expertly done by DeMeester.
There are a few faults I could find with the book, the main one being that Cora is somewhat one-dimensional for a main character and lacks agency in places where I’d have liked to see more kick-ass (though she does certainly kick ass in other places), and I would have liked clearer descriptions. But now I am picking nits.
For fans of horror, especially those who like weird culty, apocalyptical horror, Beneath is a great book, one I really recommend. It is a book that shows us a writer about to break it big.
Like I said, I’m not sure where I first heard of Kristi DeMeester, but I know that I’m going to reading more of her work. In fact, I see she has a new collection out.
p.p.s You want to get yourself both an issue of Shimmer, any issue, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, all the volumes.