Gulf: Shelly Campbell
Reviewed By Steve Stred
I’m a bit stunned here, as I snagged this for review purely from the amazing Kealan cover (and knowing Silver Shamrock put out some of the best books in Horror) but I have just read a book that’s easily going to sit in my all-time favorite book list.
This book had everything I look for in a book – emotional depth, a coming-of-age journey, fantasy elements and jarring scary sections.
To be honest, this book does what I couldn’t complete with my own two releases ‘The Girl Who Lived in the Trees’ and ‘The Window In the Ground.’ I usually steer clear of discussing my own work when reviewing a book, but when I approached those two novellas, I wanted to work in fantasy/dark elements, and think I succeeded well with ‘The Window…’
Campbell though, has mastered this element and made for a ridiculously compulsive read, a book I wish I would’ve started on holiday or been able to call in sick and read it completely in one sitting.
What I liked: ‘Gulf’ follows young David and his siblings and parents as they go on their annual summer vacation trip to the cottage they always rent. When they arrive, they find out the owner has added an addition but has misplaced the key.
From this point on, David is drawn to the door, wanting to know what’s on the other side, while combating the reality that he is as close to invisible to his parents and his siblings as he can be, without actually being invisible.
As someone who has dealt with internal issues of feeling unseen before, this storyline really resonated with me and Campbell weaves it masterfully. As the book goes on we learn more and more of the back story and it is truly heartbreaking.
For me, the absolute highlight was when David finds the key and opens the door and begins a journey of fighting the over there with the over here and wanting to protect his family while also struggling to figure out just where he fits in and what world made more sense for him to reside in.
The ending of this was spot on and brought out the waterworks. There is an epilogue that opens the possibility of further releases in this world, which would be great. I don’t know if I liked the ending more with or without the epilogue, both punctuating David’s journey well.
What I didn’t like: I really disliked the character of Angus, who didn’t add much to the story other than being the caretaker of the cottages. He was a necessity for certain things, but he frankly could’ve remained unnamed and had almost no dialogue and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story itself.
Why you should buy this: If you love the beauty of how Neil Gaiman crafts a story, Campbell will be a home run for you. This is her debut novel in the horror realm, but has other works out already. The book is engrossing and will tick all of the boxes of why some books are great while others are really good.
This one was great and I’m hoping it gets the recognition this rightly deserves.
Seventeen-year-old David is fading from his world, like a Polaroid picture in reverse. He longs to feel connected to something bigger.
When his brothers discover the new extension at the rental cottage comes with a locked door, David finds the key first. Expecting to claim a bedroom, he opens a dimensional gateway instead, exploring abandoned versions of his world in different timelines, 1960s muscle cars alternating with crumbling cottages.
Except now the dimensional bridge won’t close, and something hungry claws the door at night. David scours for clues to break the bridge, but each trip to the other side makes him fade more on his. Even if he succeeds, he risks severing his connection to his own world, and dying on the wrong side, forgotten.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here