The Book Of The Baku: R.L. Boyle
Reviewed By Steve Stred
One of my absolute favorite things in the book world is when a book comes onto your radar from a trusted source and it knocks your socks off.
Such is the case for ‘The Book of the Baku.’ But, at the same time, this one was a bit of a journey for it to end up on my Kindle.
‘The Book of the Baku’ was completely unknown to me until Tony Jones recommended it. He figured it would be right up my alley – a dark fiction story with a fantasy element that has a really intriguing book within a book. So, I added it to my list to buy and was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t available on Amazon Canada for Kindle. This one is only available as a paperback, and while for many people that would be adequate (or even preferred) my situation is such that I only get the ability to read via Kindle. So, ‘The Book of the Baku’ was put onto a list of mine that includes ‘Pine’ by Francine Toon, ‘Naomi’s Room’ by Jonathan Aycliffe and ‘Starve Acre’ by Andrew Michael Hurley – books I desperately want to read but are not available on Amazon Canada for Kindle.
But, as luck would have it, R.L. Boyle’s novel was listed on the HWA Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot for Best Y.A. Novel. And do not let the Y.A. aspect fool you, this is as dark and unsettling as anything that you’ve read. So, I cheated and emailed Boyle for a digital copy and now, having read this, I’ll definitely be getting a physical copy for my shelves as this was outstanding.
What I liked: The story follows our young 13-year-old, Sean, born with lower limb disabilities that have resulted in him needing to wear a knee brace. He lives in a horrible place, a place where most people don’t make it out, instead falling into drugs or gangs. After his mother dies, he moves in with his estranged grandfather, who lives in a sprawling estate.
It’s here that things begin to reveal themselves. We learn Sean has lost the use of his voice, and that his Grandfather wants to do everything he can to help Sean overcome the events that led to him now living there.
One day, Sean finds a book his grandfather wrote after his grandmother died; ‘The Book of the Baku,’ a collection of interconnected short stories following a creature that comes to eat the nightmares of children.
Boyle’s developed a novel that will make you feel like you’re reading a Guillermo del Toro movie. Think Pan’s Labyrinth set in modern-day UK. The night arrives and the shadows grow nearer and throughout, Boyle keeps giving us little glimpses of the before, of when Sean had friends and the potential for artistic greatness. The reality is far bleaker than that and trust me, when all is revealed I felt like I’d been stabbed in the gut. The tears came friends, and it took a bit for them to stop.
This was one of those special books, those pieces of fiction that scares you, excites you and moves you in ways you’d never expected and when you’re finished you want to shout from the rooftops that everyone should read this.
What I didn’t like: I loved this book from start to finish. But, for those who might become stressed about events, this novel does feature drug abuse, infant neglect/death and animal death. I will stress that in this case, each of those events play very specific roles, but if you require trigger warnings, I’d want you to know going in.
Why you should buy this: ‘The Book of the Baku’ is a staggering achievement. Just phenomenal from start to finish and as I mentioned before, this book covers so many emotions and just left me devastated once done. I hope that maybe this book will get on a few more of your radars so that more people discover this amazing, amazing novel.
The Book Of The Baku
A Monster Calls meets The Shining in this haunting YA dark fantasy about a monster that breaks free from a story into the real world.
Sean hasn’t spoken a word since he was put into care. When he is sent to live with his grandad, a retired author and total stranger, Sean suddenly finds himself living an affluent life, nothing like the estate he grew up in, where gangs run the streets and violence is around every corner.
Sean embraces a new world of drawing, sculpting and reading his grandad’s stories. But his grandad has secrets in his past. As his grandad retreats to the shed, buried at the end of his treasured garden, The Baku emerges.
The Baku is ancient, a creature that feeds on our fears, and it corrupts everything it touches. Plagued by nightmares, with darkness spreading through the house, Sean must confront his fears to free himself and his grandad from the grip of the Baku.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here