Author: Beck Sherman
Release Date: To Be Announced
Publisher: Beck Sherman
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Adult Horror, Dark Fantasy
Attracted by the cover and intrigued by the description, I tore through Goodbye Nothing in two days. Beck Sherman’s second book is heavily reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk on a pop culture binger. Keying into the millennials generation by referencing the MTV Movie Awards and “Hey Ya” by Outkast (among other hilariously absurd references peppered throughout), it lends believable credence to the young antagonists of the book.
Cain Emmerick is a family man, with a loving wife, a five year old daughter, and a young newborn. He’s on his way to making partner at his advertising firm and things couldn’t be going better for him. But everything changes when Billy Belco literally crashes into his life, causing a traffic accident that Cain barely survives – if the thing that comes back can be called Cain. He comes back with Nothing, an emptiness that demands satiation at all costs.
One horrifying crime and seventeen years of life behind bars later, we catch back up with Cain and learn just how he adjusted to Nothing. He could not care less about wife, children, and job – all he’s after these days is the feeling that Nothing provides to him when he commits acts of unspeakable violence. In return, that Nothing allows him relative anonymity to get away with these crimes. Hunting down Billy Belco, his interactions with the man turn Cain from carefree psychopath into harried man on a mission, leaving a wake of destruction in his tracks.
At the end of that destruction is a seventeen year old girl, Joey Tyler. An unexplained illness from two years ago causes her to suffer from visual impairment – not blindess, as she is quick to point out to anyone mistaken. Despite the lack of vision, she’s still slowly making a name for herself as a photographer and planning to go to college to pursue her career aspirations. She and her best friend, Ren, are at the start of their optimistic lives. How they are connected to the monster that has become Cain Emmerick is the center of Goodbye Nothing and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
I really loved the ease with which Sherman brought you into Cain Emmerick’s life. He lived such an average, mundane life that it was difficult not to like the guy. But when the switch was flipped, the switch was flipped. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart and could possibly be “triggering” (the word du jour lately) to those with aversions to blood and gore and violence. The rollercoaster ride didn’t ever necessarily have me cheering for Cain, but that only made it easier to really feel his highs and lows. It was the character developments that pushed the story forward and had me flying through the pages, despite the warning at the beginning to take it slow.
The source of Cain and Joey’s tension brings up questions of what makes up a person and what drives a person. The Nothing is never really explained, beyond being an absence of something. Its drives and wants are explained in excruciating detail as Cain acts to satisfy it and feel some spark within himself. What created Nothing? Was Nothing even created? Or was it a force that has and always will just be, looming inside us all? These are the kinds of questions I’m still turning over in my mind after finishing the book.
My one gripe – and the reason I knocked one star off of the rating – was the lingering over teenage angst in some places. Jumping between Cain’s life and Joey’s life made it obvious who was good and who was evil. She was immediately sympathetic and likeable; he was made even more sick and twisted by comparison. It was just a tad too long at times. I wanted to care about the would-they-won’t-they relationship between Joey and Ren, but it was predictable at best. And maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be – being between Joey’s age and Cain’s age perhaps put me in a state of limbo when it came to relating to the characters. Had I read Goodbye Nothing at seventeen, in the same situation as Joey (minus the killer after me, of course) I think I could have appreciated how her biggest problems seemed to be a fancy of her best friend.
If you’re a fan of horror and aren’t afraid to go there unabashedly with an author, this is the book for you. We, the readers, are gleefully dragged through Cain’s life and it becomes a game for us as well. Keep turning the pages, keep reading the passages – in the same way Cain’s actions are rewarded by Nothing, we have to see how everything ends, a little reward of our own for seeking out Cain’s comeuppance.
If Chuck Palahniuk’s tropes have grown weary and Stephen King isn’t quite up to par these days, sit down with Goodbye Nothing and stare a little evil in the face today. It’s dark and twisted in a way that makes each turn of the page a dreaded action – when you think it can’t get any worse, it just might…