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Little Heaven: A Novel (2017)

by Craig Davidson

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3952365,681 (3.68)9
A trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman to evaluate the safety of a boy who may have been taken against his will to a New Mexico backwoods settlement, where the mercenaries encounter paranoia, mistrust, and insanity in the shadow of a monolithic idol.

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Love love love Nick Cutter and all of his books, if I could do 4.5 I would.
This particular story was a little slow moving for me, hence why it took me two months to read, HOWEVER, the reading was still worth it. Chefs kiss to my favorite horror author ( )
  beanskays | May 14, 2024 |
Review based on Netgalley ARC.

This book. I love it. Just as scary as Cutter's other novels (and sort of less gross), but with a much richer backstory. Also, it's a freaking Western horror novel. Which automatically makes it cool. Highly recommend! ( )
1 vote JessicaReadsThings | Dec 2, 2021 |
After reading THE TROOP last summer, I became a Nick Cutter fan, for he is a writer who knows how to tickle my horror bone. I found LITTLE HEAVEN to be an excellent follow up to that first book, one that works some well used tropes of the genre, while delivering some great gross out moments, the kind any reader of Cutter has come to expect. Many reviewers have compared this book to the works of Cormac McCarthy, and of course, Stephen King, and I certainly agree with the former, as more than once I thought this book could have easily existed in the same universe as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. As for the latter, well, when the protagonists have to go into a cave to confront a Big Bad supernatural evil in its lair, then you are playing The King’s music.

The story is set in the Southwest United States, and jumps back and forth in time between the mid ‘60s and 1980. The protagonists are three mercenaries: Micah, Minerva, and Ebenezer; who, for various reasons, attempt to kill each other upon their first meeting. Forced by necessity to flee the law together, they form an uneasy alliance; needing money, they take a job escorting a woman named Ellen to a remote settlement in the New Mexico wilderness named Little Heaven, where the woman wants to check on the well being of her nephew, taken their by his father, who has joined a cult lead by a stereotypically charismatic pastor. We know from the get go that something isn’t right in Little Heaven, and Cutter does a good job describing the paranoia inside the gates of the community, while outside in the forest, a lurking evil grows stronger, as monstrous abominations make their presence felt. It is through the eyes of these mercenary outsiders that we see things go from bad to much worse; in the end, there will only be a small group of survivors left for the final confrontation.

A lot of this will sound familiar to any horror reader: an isolated community of religious fanatics; a lethal, but initially vague evil force that only makes itself known through its minions, and an ability to prey upon the minds of the weak; the discovery of evidence the Big Bad has been around for a long time, and has worked its evil on others in the past; a “bad place,” here an enormous black rock in the woods, where evil dwells; the hick dullards of rural America; two timelines, one where the Big Bad is discovered and confronted for the first time, and a second, set years later, where there is a reckoning with the job left undone (shades of King’s IT); and of course, a man of the cloth, who is in it only for himself, and his degenerate desires. What Cutter does to shake up these familiar tropes is to confront them with main characters that are tough enough to take on whatever comes their way, while making it clear they are flawed people, who can be tripped up by their own weaknesses. Micah is a man grown too casual with violence, both in tolerating it, and in inflicting it; Minerva is haunted by a horrific incident from her childhood that has made her hard and mean, and vengeful; Ebenezer is a killer without attachments, determined never to be the world’s “meat.”

Cutter does have a talent with words, especially descriptions, though others have complained that it sounds too much like knock off Lovecraft, something every American horror writer is guilty of at one time or another. Cutter’s monsters are truly frightening in their appearance, horrific mutations of wildlife bent to the will of an even greater monster. Horror stories often sink or swim on the strength of their villains, and the ability of the author to get the reader to buy in to his premise. Cutter goes down the path of not trying to explain everything about his Big Bad, dispensing with an origin story, or some reason why it fits into the universe. Evil simply is, and it has to be dealt with when encountered. I do give Cutter credit for not making his Big Bad omnipotent, or all powerful, a common mistake for many horror writers. When it comes to outright gore, and body horror, Cutter really shines, and he knows how to deliver an out of nowhere plot turn; see the fate of Minerva’s younger brother in a flashback. If the Reverend Flesher and his congregation bare more than a passing resemblance to Jim Jones and his ill fated followers, then I give credit to Cutter for owning it in the acknowledgements.

If you like your horror brewed on the strong side – and you know who you are, then the books of Nick Cutter are written for you. ( )
  wb4ever1 | Aug 30, 2020 |
Little Heaven is an extraordinary story! That doesn't mean it was a perfect story, but it was fun.

I'll refrain from going too deeply into the plot, but I will give a brief summary so I can talk about the few things that bothered me. Three bounty hunters meet up in the 60's, (and again some years later), and agree to help a woman check on her nephew, who had been taken by her brother-in-law to an isolated spot in the mountains. This spot being where the cult known as Little Heaven is located. Together, they all discover there is a LOT more going on in this settlement than just a warped, cruel "religion".

What I liked most about this story was its creativity. Yes, I saw similarities to Stephen King's work, (a lot of them, really), but I didn't find this tale to be derivative-I took it as an homage to the King instead. In fact, I think some of the scenes with the leader, (read: insane cult leader), the baby, (oh, that baby: SHUDDER), and the "Long Walker" (you'll see), would have made Stephen King himself jealous.

At times though, it seemed like Little Heaven didn't know what it wanted to be-between the main cult story, the interactions of the bounty hunters, the current and past time lines, the things in the woods and in the rock-there was a lot going on. I'm not exactly sure why, but at times I found my mind wandering. Maybe if the story were a little more tight and focused that would have helped? As I said, I'm not quite sure.

Whenever I found that happening, some piece of writing or creative incident would set me right back on the path. I found this particular quote to be beautiful:

"It’s all so goddamn fragile. Your life and the thread you carry it on. And the more love you carry, the more stress you put on that thread, the better chance it will snap. But what choice do any of us have? You take on that love because to live without it is to exist as half a person. You give that love away because it is in you to give, not out of a desire for recompense. And you keep loving even when the world cracks open and reveals a black hole where all that love can get swallowed."

Overall though, this tale's creativity and imagination beckoned to me like a bright star moving across the sky, and I willingly followed it-right down into the dark below the big, black rock. What's hiding down there? You'll have to read this book to find out! I recommend that you do.

Available January 10th here: Little Heaven: A Novel

*Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* ( )
  Charrlygirl | Mar 22, 2020 |

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Little Heaven by Nick Cutter is an AMAZING horror book and I will tell you right now, if you want to be creeped out and chilled to the bone, go buy the book immediately. It is amazingly written with tremendous characters and descriptions of horror that burn in your brain for hours after reading so that you’re afraid to close your eyes and see these creatures again.

While the pacing might be slow at the start, this slow start is necessary because it lays the character work down for the rest of the novel. We see how these characters tick and then we get to travel back to see what caused these abrupt transformations. Once we go back in time to the original incident, the pacing steadily increases, as does the horror.

Cutter does a tremendous job of evoking unease and fear through every word choice. The descriptions he gives are so vivid that you can picture clearly these horrific creatures and acts, and then have those images cemented with the accompanying drawings included. It is nightmare fuel. Then, just when you think things can’t get any scarier, they do in such a twisted way that simply makes sense and yet, is so profoundly disturbing, you don’t know how to move on. The ending is the most terrifying part of the book.

This is such a hard review to write because there’s so much I want to say, yet so much I can’t because readers deserve to feel the horror and unease firsthand without anyone spoiling them. I hope I’ve made it clear enough that Little Heaven by Nick Cutter is a phenomenal horror story full of suspense, a bit of gore, and genuinely frightening. Calling it as one of my favorite books already for 2017.

// I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title. //
( )
  heylu | Jan 8, 2020 |
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A trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman to evaluate the safety of a boy who may have been taken against his will to a New Mexico backwoods settlement, where the mercenaries encounter paranoia, mistrust, and insanity in the shadow of a monolithic idol.

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