{Book Review} Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke: Eric LaRocca

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke: Eric LaRocca

Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan

If you’re reading this, you’re probably plugged into the virtual world, connecting with people across the globe, and perhaps even building relationships online. But how well can you really know the person on the other side of the screen? How much of yourself do you reveal on the internet? This is just one of the themes Eric LaRocca explores in his phenomenal novella Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke.

As detailed in the fictitious “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book, the entire story is told through the online correspondence between Agnes and Zoe collected by the Henley’s Edge Police Department, with some information redacted due to an ongoing investigation into the part Zoe played in Agnes’ demise. You might think you can extrapolate where this story is going from the opening, I did, but believe me nothing can prepare you for the actual horrors that unfold.

The first exchange between the two characters is innocent enough – Agnes is strapped for cash and posts an ad to sell an antique apple peeler on the online community board QueerList.org, to which Zoe expresses an interest in purchasing. From there the two women continue exchanging emails, chat via instant messaging, and a relationship begins to blossom.

Harmless flirting soon progresses into divulging family secrets, dares to rebel against the workplace status quo, and evolves into a sadomasochistic Master/Slave contract. While that might sound like an enormous leap, the author has crafted the correspondence so authentically that the journey of this online relationship feels almost natural. Throughout the story, the characters subtly test each other’s boundaries before pushing into deeper conversations. The former loneliness experienced by both Zoe and Agnes drives them into codependency which results in stomach-churning decisions after Agnes pleads to have a baby.

By no means am I a squeamish reader, but holy hell there were sections in this story that made me wish I hadn’t eaten before I started turning the pages. As much as this novella serves as a character study, the author also incorporates body horror, and I’m talking Cronenberg levels of terror. What I found most disturbing about these scenes was how firmly the story stays planted in reality – there’s no supernatural force, or science fiction conjecture, this could actually happen. I should also note there is a scene involving animal abuse (a salamander), but it is easily identifiable and can be skipped if needed.

Stylistically, I wasn’t sure the format of electronic correspondence would be effective, but LaRocca uses the form to his advantage, creating a voyeuristic and compelling read. The writing is lean and purposeful with each sentence revealing the characters, their motivations, and actions. For the best reading experience, I recommend devouring this story in one sitting.

I was absolutely blown away by this novella. Visceral, brutal, and engrossing, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is masterfully written by Eric LaRocca and needs to be in your horror collection.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s — a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.

What have you done today to deserve your eyes?

You can buy Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke from Amazon UK & Amazon US

J.A. Sullivan

J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.

As curator of “Scary’s Voices” on Kendall Reviews, an article series reviewing horror podcasts, Sullivan loves listening to all things spooky. If you have a horror podcast recommendation, let her know.

On top of contributing short stories to Kendall Reviews, her fiction has appeared in Don’t Open the Door (2019), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020). Other spooky tales and updates on her writing journey can be found on her blog.

You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan

Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

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