Children of No One is a novella from DarkFuse by Nicole Cushing. Despite only being available electronically (limited hardcovers are sold to members of a special DarkFuse book club) I couldn't resist this one, despite my tendencies to avoid e-books at all costs. And I am sure glad I picked this one up. Here's the blurb:
Sadism, nihilism, poverty, wealth, screams, whimpers, sanity and madness collide in Nowhere, Indiana
For Thomas Krieg, Nowhere is a miles-long, pitch-black underground maze in which he’s imprisoned dozens of boys for the past ten years—all in the name of art.
For two brothers, Nowhere is the only place they clearly remember living. A world unto itself, in which they must stay alert to stay alive. A world from which the only escape is death.
But for an English occultist known only as Mr. No One, Nowhere is much more…and much less: the perfect place in which to perform a ritual to unleash the grandest of eldritch deities, the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.
Between the blurb and the amazing cover (and I know never to judge a book by it's cover...but seriously, what an awesome cover) I was really intrigued.
The novella opens with two quotes. The first from Borges, which is an appropriate opener as labyrinths were a common theme in many of the Argentinian author's works. The second quote comes from Thomas Ligotti, and really helps to set up the nark, nihilistic themes that are on display in this novella.
The one complaint readers seem to have is that the book doesn't spend much time with the boys trapped in the labyrinth. Instead, the novel focuses on the adults, and is mostly told through the viewpoint of Mr. MacPherson, a rich fan of Krieg's controversial artwork. The boys themselves are present not as protagonists, but instead serve as examples of the product produced by Krieg's sadistic art experiment.
Cushing succeeds in taking unsympathetic characters, and making them interesting to read about. MacPherson's perverse interests make him rather detestable, while Krieg's sadism and pompous attitude make for a downright despicable character. Mr. No One, although trying to unleash a dark, consuming, uncaring deity on the world, is perhaps the most likeable character in the book. Although he is a nihilist to the core, and wants the world to succumb to nothingness, he at times shows distaste towards Krieg's treatment of the boys in the labyrinth.
The story boils down to sadism versus nihilism, with MacPherson caught in the middle of the two strong-willed men. Cushing ratchets the tension perfectly, and blends horrors both real and cosmic for one of the more disturbing reads of the past year. Children of No One will stay on your mind long after reading, and at the price there is no reason not to pick this one up. I, for one, would love to see more longer work from this author. Highly recommended.