Book Review: What Hides Within by Jason Parent and Author Interview

15828555Title: What Hides Within
Author: Jason Parent
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Mystery
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Publication Date: July 25th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Inside all of us, there is darkness. Inside Clive, it’s tangible, and it’s aching to get out.

What Hides Within tells the story of a man held captive by an unknown evil. Clive Menard is a spineless slacker leading an ordinary existence. But when Chester enters his life, it becomes far from ordinary.

A disheveled Clive stands alone in a hospital waiting room. A series of incidences have led him to undergo unnecessary neurosurgery. A voice inside Clive’s head nags him to kill the doctor.

Weeks prior, a murder investigation and an unrelated kayaking excursion set the story’s interlocking events in motion. When a remorseful killer, a bomb-happy psychopath and a mysterious widow spider converge upon Clive, they bring with them destruction and death. Clive must discover who or what is steering his very existence before he, too, is consumed by the carnage around him.

With a driven detective following his every step and a vicious killer hiding within his circle of friends, Clive must walk a narrow and dangerous path, teetering between salvation and damnation. He must confront Chester and his own demons. But is he powerless to overcome them?

What Hides Within borders on the line between several genres: it’s horror at its very core, but there are also hints of romance, mystery, and thriller aspects. I also found myself chuckling here and there throughout the book. The author manages to throw in some humor even when circumstances get dreary.

Clive, the main character of this novel, is a slacker with little or no reason to get up from his bed in the morning. He does his job half-heartedly, and is basically withering away, waiting for the day he dies. One night he goes out with his friend/girlfriend for a kayaking trip, and a mysterious arachnid crawls inside his brain. Naturally, he tries to get rid of the thing inside his mind, but when brain surgery proves nothing is wrong, Clive begins to suspect he may be delusional. He calls the arachnid Chester, and eventually gives up on trying to remove the spider. What Clive however doesn’t know is that Chester’s plans are a lot more sinister than they appear at first glance…

As far as premises go, this book certainly has an unique one. I’ve always been terrified of spiders – they’re disgusting, and they move way too fast – and to see them used in an original way in a horror book definitely worked for me. I’ve seen that movie where the entire earth gets swamped by gigantic spiders, and although that left me scarred for life, the story wasn’t all that intriguing. What Hides Within has an intriguing plot, likeable and relatable characters and so much mystery it had me on the edge of my seat during the entire read.

As I said, main character Clive is a spineless slacker, a nobody, a lazy bun who can’t get up and fix the million things wrong with his life. It’s not a protagonist everyone would’ve chosen, but it works surprisingly well in this case. Clive needs Chester. Chester brings him to do things he would’ve never imagined otherwise. And truth to be told, Clive’s personality isn’t that far-fetched either: there are plenty of people on this planet just wasting their life away doing absolutely nothing. I could’ve never befriended Clive, but I did enjoy reading about a different type of protagonist for once. Instead of the protagonist being the one to decide his own fate, everything here was decided for Clive. Chester was the puppet master and Clive the puppet, and that role he played surprisingly well.

The writing is great, and the author definitely has a large vocabulary. The mystery elements of the book were executed well, and the author clearly did some research in how the police would lead an investigation. I’m usually quick to unravel the mystery, but here I had some trouble at first – my first guess was completely different than how it turned out to be, and that’s always a nice surprise.

The book isn’t that scary, unless you’re afraid of spiders, like I am though. But the scariness is in the afterthought: what if you were Clive? What if someday a parasite, be it a spider or something else, decided to invade your brain? Now, that’s a scary thought.

Recommended to people who enjoy reading across genre-boundaries, fans of supernatural mysteries, and of course, horror fans.

Author Interview

I was lucky enough to be able to ask the author some interview questions about his writing process, the book and his upcoming work.


1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first short story for a class. It was a fantasy piece, and I remember being immensely proud of it. I also remember my brother getting hold of it, and to this day, he still makes fun of it on occasion. He was right: the story was terrible. But it was my first indicator that writing could be fun . . . as long as my brother never saw it.

2. What inspired you to write “What Hides Within?”

I’ve always been fascinated by spiders, but like most people, I don’t want them crawling all over me, much less living in my ear. I read a news story about a kid who went to his doctor for an earache only to find a spider had made a home inside his ear canal. Apparently, it happens, and it’s gross, but there’s nothing inherently evil about it. But I started thinking–what if that spider had a more sinister agenda than trying to solve its housing dilemma? My imagination took off from there, and several years later, What Hides Within is published.

3. What was most difficult about writing “What Hides Within”?

Writing is fun for me, so the biggest obstacle is finding time to do it. With What Hides Within specifically, sharing such an off-beat story with others was most difficult. Would readers find it weird, revolting, dark, sinister, disturbing? Given the genre, I kinda hoped so. But I admit that a talking spider living in someone’s head can be a tad . . . peculiar. So, it was difficult to gauge whether readers would find it genius or insanity, brilliant or ludicrous? Guess the verdict’s still out on that. Either way, I hope readers will find Clive’s journey a whole lot of fun.

4. How long did it take you to write What Hides Within from draft to finish?

A long time. I work on a couple of things at once, so it’s hard to estimate. I would say somewhere between three or four years.

5. Who was your favorite character to write about? Who was your least favorite character to write about?

My favorite? That’s easily Chester. A clever and malevolent spider with a hidden motive made for an exciting villain of small stature but great import. Conversely, Kevin was a weak-minded, lowly villain. Everything about him is pathetic, and purposely so. While some readers might find wicked delight in cheering on Chester, no one will root for Kevin, not even me.

6. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I’m still learning the business myself, but I would advise them to seek out other aspiring authors to form read and review groups and get all the constructive criticism they can. If one’s goal is to be a bestseller, he/she will likely need the right agent and a Big 6 publisher. If one’s goals are more modest, there are plenty of small presses, often genre specific, that are interested in seeing work from new authors.

7. If you could drink a cup of coffee with three authors (they can be alive or dead), which authors would you choose?

Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and Dr. Seuss. In addition to being three of the greatest authors in their respective genres, I could learn a hell of a lot from all three. Poe and Wilde are two of my biggest inspirations. But the real enjoyment would be in seeing dreary Poe and dry Wilde squirm through a reading of Green Eggs and Ham.

8. Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I have two short stories due out in anthologies next year. Beyond that, I have three novels at various stages of development, one science fiction thriller and two horror/thrillers. It’s too early to tell which one will be released next. And if my readers want it, perhaps my favorite spider will return. Stay tuned!

Comments

  1. Thanks I Heart Reading for the review and interview. If any of your readers have questions, I’d be happy to answer them here, or they should feel free to contact me through my website. I wish you and your readers the best!

    – Jason

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