Infinity House by Shane McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liken the experience of reading Shane McKenzie’s debut novella INFINITY HOUSE to what I suppose Lassie’s little buddy, Timmy, experienced falling down that well. You think you know what you’re doing going in, not worried about the consequences of fooling around near an old, abandoned well. I’m fucking Timmy, after all, I’m a blond-haired, blue-eyed little prick with an awesome dog, what the fuck could happen to me? You think I’m going to let some shitty, forgotten well scare me? Fuck that and fuck you.
And then you’re falling, tumbling, down into the dark, faster than you even realize, all manner of horrific ideas running through your mind, including such thoughts as, oh fuck, I’m falling down this well, which is likely filled with monsters and evil and snakes and bones and spiders and raccoon urine and clowns. And then you hit the bottom.
That’s this book. It’s got the monsters and the evil, but instead of spiders, you have flies, and instead snakes, it’s maggots. A sea of maggots up to your chest, and rotting meat, disgusting stench, liquefied nastiness. INFINITY HOUSE is the story of Mike and his little brother James. They live in The Oak, a ghetto where Mike sells weed out the front door to pay the bills. His grandmamma is infirm and his mother is dead and only Mike is left to care for James.
Mike is ripped off by a customer toting a shotgun and loses his stash and his cash, but little brother James comes home with money in hand. He found it over at the creepy haunted house that everyone in The Oak knows to steer clear of, but with no money and no more weed to sell to make some money, Mike and James head to the house to see what more they can find. OH SHIT MIKE DON’T GO IN THAT HAUNTED HOUSE YOU DUMBASS IT’S HAUNTED BY A CHILD-KILLING FREAK! STOP SMOKING THE MARIJUANA IT’S DESTROYING YOUR SENSES!
That’s about all the setup you need, and all the setup you’re going to get because by the time Mike and his little bro step inside the house, you’re headed straight down that well. The story takes off like a roman candle at that point, piling on one slippery, slimy, disgusting, horrific scene after the next until you finally splash down at the bottom and try to catch your breath, or at least keep from ralphing in your lap. I won’t lie, there are a few passages in here that got my stomach turning. I expected this book to be nasty, but it still managed to get to me.
But that what’s it’s supposed to do. INFINITY HOUSE is straight up gross-out horror, and it doesn’t even attempt to be anything more than that, which is cool. McKenzie, in an interview included in the back of the book, says as much. He’s out to shock you, stun you, make you feel queasy, uncomfortable, lightheaded, sick, whatever he can get. If the idea of millions of squirming maggots and rotting, mushy meat squishing under your feet is too much for you, then you’ll probably want to take a pass on this one. But if you dig that sort of thing, McKenzie is a name to watch out for.
Personally, I don’t go out of my way to seek out the extreme horror, but I don’t reject it out of hand, either. I think it takes skill to write a story that’s both compelling and also over-the-top nasty at the same time. That type of book can get tedious and just flat gross real fast. To his credit, McKenzie doesn’t let it get to that point. He doesn’t give us a lot of characterization when it comes to Mike or James, but he trades that in for a short little rocket ride of gore that will be over before you know it, if you can just hold out to the end. I’m intrigued and looking forward to what he comes up with next.
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