Indie Spotlight #5: The Sadeiest (Austrian Spencer)
Hello! And welcome to October's spook-tastic entry into the fabulous Indie Spotlight.
This month we look at a modern-day celebration of philosophical horror and complex storytelling - The Sadeiest (by Austrian Spencer)
The Sadeiest is a book that defies genre definition. Just when you think you have a handle on the intertwining plots, the fantastical world, and the rules that govern this tale of horror and dark fantasy, it pivots and warps into something else entirely, building layer upon layer of complexity, lore, character motivations and non-linear story elements that’ll either ignite the completive reader instinct in you to examine every morsel of information and attempt to pre-empt where the next plot thread is leading, or it will compel you to hurl the book across the room in a baffled rage at the author’s deliberate refusal to take you by the hand and lead you through the darkness.
Without getting into hyperbole; any attempt to classify or pigeon-hole exactly what this marvellous, and brain-straining story actually is, would be a crime of oversimplification of what debut author Austrian Spencer has achieved. This is the first instalment in what this reader hopes is a long and rich saga exploring the nature of death, sin, guilt, suffering, and the relationships that bind those impenetrable subjects together. It’s truly fantastic.
I won’t summarise the plot, not because I want to avoid spoilers, but mainly because it’s an impossible task. But to give you the basics; The Sadeiest is the story of a man named Williams who has recently discovered he is, in fact, very dead.
In the world of The Sadeiest, when a human dies their soul is actually released to the afterlife moments before the body itself perishes. However, Williams’ soul did not pass on as it should have. When this happens, a new being is created – a Sadeiest.
Sadeiests have one duty (a penance, really) - a Sadeiest is deployed by an unseen force to aid dying souls in strife, who are struggling to die in peace and leave their body, and it is a Sadeiest’s duty to help with the soul’s release… before they themselves are forced to die in its place. And they must do this many, many times.
And. It. Hurts.
Sadeiests must continue their penance until their sins in life are worked off and repaid.
(Still with me? Because those are just the basics!)
To guide Williams on his bizarre and horrific journey is his fellow Sadeiest, and mentor, Henreich. Together, they embark on a story of friendship and surrealism that travels through every facet of the horror genre towards an endgame where the fate of the world will hinge on the survival of an innocent boy with a unique relationship with Death himself, and the oncoming threat of the horsemen of the Apocalypse.
(Still here? Still morbidly curious as to what the actual heck this book is? Good. Come... Follow…)
Austrian’s style reminds this reader of the best of literary horror of yester-century, told with an undeniably modern sensibility, and the twisted influences of the likes of Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, and even Tsugumi Ohba.
Like the latter’s seminal manga series, Death Note, this book takes on the big, weighty topics of morality, sin, and guilt and explores them using lore-heavy fantasy elements and non-linear storytelling.
Despite the eclectic story and the presence of some very welcome dark humour, this is very much a horror tale. What type of horror, you ask? ALL THE HORROR AT ONCE.
The Sadeiest, despite its tight length, is an epic tour through the genre’s many faces. Body horror, supernatural horror, creepy-crawly horror, slasher horror, and even horror grounded in the real worlds of war, depravity, and inhumanity. It is a true buffet of ideas and experiences that might overwhelm some readers through the sheer ambition of the story and the unforgiving nature of Austrian’s insistence that you PAY ATTENTION. And it’s true, this is not a cosy nighttime skim-read nor a book to be read chapter-by-chapter weeks apart. It is a Rubix cube and a roller-coaster that demands to be cracked, conquered, and ridden in all its glory.
Unique, original, bizarre, and wholly rewarding for the readers who take Austrian up on his challenge, The Sadeiest is a book I can’t help but recommend. In the same way, I’d broadly recommend running a marathon, climbing a mountain, or completing sober October (okay that last one is probably just me) – you will be fulfilled and delighted that you undertook the challenge… but please do not expect to laze your way through it. Or you will be sorry.
A heartfelt, hair-raising, mind-warping experience.
FIVE STARS *****
To check out this weird and wonderful book you can buy it here on the Amazon (it sells books... who knew!?) or by clicking the dazzling cover below.
You can also check out more of Austrian's work by visiting his website here.