The Ethereal Transit Society: Thomas Vaughn
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
Basic rules for life that I apply are never trust someone who thinks we’re alone in the universe, who doesn’t blink at least four times every minute and who doesn’t consider the movie This is Spinal Tap one of the finest 80 minutes committed to film. The last point has nothing to do with this review or the book it is about, but it is still fact and should be adhered to with absolute insistence.
I’ve always been rather partial to the rumour of a UFO sighting and a wild-eyed cult of doomsayers, so the premise of debut novella The Ethereal Transit Society by Thomas Vaughn which draws upon these two strands was an appealing one.
In this haywire lockdown pandemic world within which we find ourselves, it’s rather refreshing to read literature which is crazier than modern life and The Ethereal Transit Society is certainly crazy. Batshit crazy, but sometimes batshit crazy is what you need, especially when it’s as well written as this novella.
A ragtag group of doomsday cultists believe their recently dead leader is calling to them from beyond the grave and they head to a hickville backwater in Arkansas to reclaim his body from where it has been buried. The terrors they discover on their journey to find their mentor’s resting place grow increasing more dreadful the closer they get to his source. Terrifying humans try to halt their progress, whilst slug-like creature with jaws try to burrow into their bodies.
The Ethereal Transit Society is a peculiar mix of dystopian travelogue, critter monster fable and violent hillbilly horror, bundled, quite literally, under an alien/UFO umbrella, which doesn’t always work and probably makes itself more complicated than it needs to be because of it. Or maybe that’s its strength? Because whilst reading you’re constantly left with this niggling unsettling sense of foreboding from the peculiar end of world events, underscored with really terrific writing, which heightens the entire package into something far more complex than it might have been.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that Vaughn is a good enough writer to have gotten away with leaving the UFO hanging in the sky and circuit boards being inserted into heads out (that’s not quite what happens but I’m at a loss to explain it any better) and still have written a nail-biting unsettling read. By adding in the Sci-Fi element, he’s twisted the story and logic to make it a unique treat, but too clever for simpletons like me.
For all that, I really enjoyed it. Vaughn has a wonderful way with words, able to write about the mundane and sensational with equal aplomb. He can flash to violence from a standing start with virtuoso skill and his observations are brilliantly captured.
For fans of horror, especially Sci-Fi horror, this one should definitely be on your reading list. Just don’t feel too bad if, like me, you scratch your head in confusion from time to time whilst reading it.
The Ethereal Transit Society
Not all cults are wrong about the end of the world…
Believing their late mentor is calling them from the grave, the last surviving members of a modern doomsday cult travel across the country to reclaim his body in preparation for the end-times he preached about. Tracing their leader’s echo through a cosmic signal known to them as the Transit Frequency brings them to the rural outback of Arkansas, where its presence has drastic and dangerous effects on anything living. Time, though, is running out for the last of the remnants of the Ethereal Transit Society as they attempt to track down his final resting place and unlock the mysteries of the coming apocalypse before they become victims of it.
The Ethereal Transit Society is the debut novella from Arkansas writer Thomas Vaughn, and brings readers a tense and authentic dive into the philosophies of modern doomsday and UFO cults while delivering a strong dose of cosmic horror fiction.
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk