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Review: Split/Scream 2

Split/Scream 2

Genre: Horror

Reviewer: Eliza

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About The Book

“The Shivering World” by Cynthia Gómez – Nayeli’s brilliance should be enough to outshine the darkness she longs to leave behind, but she fears she’ll never get further than what her unstable mother can provide: a futon in a garage. She’s determined to transfer to a good college and get out, but the men in her life—a violent neighbor, a greedy landlord, her mother’s predatory boyfriend—stand in her way. Only once she encounters the supernatural, a being she suspects to be La Llorona herself, does Nayeli begin to truly see the power she is capable of. But at what cost? “The Shivering World” is a Faustian bargain in a place of poverty and gentrification, where supernatural terrors meet the horrors of escaping to a new life.

“What Ate the Angels” by M. Lopes da Silva – Non-binary ASMR artist November discovers the sound of a giant heartbeat beneath Los Angeles, which only they seem to hear. When their vore-loving partner Heather, a City Hall archivist, grows ill and can’t get the healthcare she needs, they believe they will find a solution through the thrum. November journeys underground, through abandoned Prohibition-era tunnels, to the den of a creature born from the fabric of the city itself: oil, bones, chemicals—and souls. “What Ate the Angels” is queer body horror full of dread and pulpy, throbbing filth.

The Review

Dreadstone Press knocks it out of the park again with Split/Scream 2. Their Split/Scream series itself has a great premise: two novelettes, somewhat similar in theme or tone, one book—like an old late night, double feature picture show (hence the place on “split screen”—and now you have a Rocky Horror earworm. You’re welcome). While Split/Scream 1 showcased two great novelettes, Split/Scream 2 proves that Dreadstone’s on the bleeding edge of indie horror publishing. Mainstream presses wouldn’t touch these works, and that’s why mainstream presses suck, full stop.

Cynthia Gómez’s “The Shivering World” tells the story of a girl trapped in a cycle of poverty, racism, but most of all, patriarchy—until La Llorona comes calling. This is horror that asks real questions: What are we willing to sacrifice? What would we leave behind to succeed? Most of all, who are we willing to become to save ourselves?

This little novelette reminds us, in stark, stunning prose with a propulsive narrative, that you might not like the answers. Add gender and race into the mix. Feel sicker. No, you might not like those answers at all. Nayeli’s story screams about the choices we know we make, and the hell of making them.

The second novelette, “What Ate the Angels,” is like nothing else out there. Full stop.

I might have fallen in love with M. Lopes da Silva over their prose. They wrote, “The smell of asphalt gumming in the summer sun came from the corner,” and my black little heart shattered. They, personally, could be the strange hum under Los Angeles unsettling our cuddly enby main character, and I still might obsess over their prose like November obsesses over that damn hum. It’s a lean, lovely, hungry story, and I’m going to read it again now, thanks. 

Bonus: in addition to swoon-worthy prose, jump-off-the-page characters, and a page-turning plot, “What Ate the Angels” doesn’t have a setting. It lives in its setting. So many stories simply happen in an amorphous somewhere-land. This could only take place in the heat of Los Angeles, much like “The Shivering World” could only happen on the ragged edges of border-land poverty. 

If you’re into reading horror, this is what you should be reading. And if your particular niche is queer horror, your shelf is absolutely incomplete without Split/Scream 2—”What Ate the Angels” is one of the best queer stories out there, doesn’t shy from sex, and should be nominated for all the things.

As usual, they gave me the book. They never said I had to like it. 

The Reviewer

After earning a master’s degree in creative writing, Eliza swore, like Lev Grossman, “I’ll never write anything without breaking the rules again, because now I understand that’s the whole point of everything.” To the dismay of her literary fiction professors, she spent six years as a staff writer for Scary Mommy. The author of several LGBTQIA YA novels and numerous speculative short stories, Eliza has a mainstream literary novella publishing this spring; she lives the South with her children, her dogs, her very patient partner, and a hell of a lot of Talking Heads records. Only one of her five tattoos is a David Bowie lyric.  

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