Gothic (2022) by Philip Fracassi

Rating

Gothic (2022) by Philip Fracassi is a love letter to Stephen King and a tribute to the horror trope of possessed authors. But while King’s Jack Torrence is complicated, funny, and ultimately terrifying, Fricassi’s Tyson Parks lacks the psychological nuance that would make his descent into madness sad or scary.

Has-been horror novelist, Tyson Parks is struggling to write his next book, when his partner, Sarah, surprises him with an antique desk. Immediately seduced by the object, he begins isolating himself, working at a physically unsustainable rate, and unleashing his fury on anyone who interrupts him. No longer the author of his own stories, Tyson is the amanuensis of an malevolent spirit, whose evil thoughts increasingly shape his behavior.

As Tyson submits to the desk’s powers, Diana Montresor, a modern day sorceress, searches the world for a haunted altar–now transformed into a mundane piece of furniture–that her family lost centuries before. Can she wrest the desk from Tyson’s maniacal grasp before it is too late?

While I loved Diana’s professional approach to a supernatural relic, her family’s history of medieval castles and magic was too dark fantasy for my taste. Tyson’s personality was also a challenge for me. In the opening chapters of the book, he fantasizes about his agent’s secretary as she gets him a cup of coffee, and the very quality of his daydream establishes an unbreachable wall between his mental space and mine. Almost a caricature of a 50s man, he has a retro view of women and an enormous ego. The bloated ego that makes him susceptible to the promise of the desk (that is, the promise of unending literary output and success) also makes me shrug when it finally turns on him.

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