Book Review: Altar by Philip Fracassi

“Altar cements Fracassi into the annals of weird and horror fiction with a well-written, tightly paced extravaganza that showcases his flair for solid characterization combined with cinematic, bloodcurdling terror.”

Just another summer day, heading off to the local swimming pool. The innocent days of youth. The water looks so nice and cool, and everyone seems to be having a great time. All your friends from school are there, and even some kids that aren’t your friends. The wind begins to pick up a bit; there’s a storm brewing in the distance. As the grey clouds get closer, soon the air is filled with screaming, as the water in the pool turns from cool blue to Crimson red, the color of blood.

Altar is the latest effort from Philip Fracassi. Relatively new to the weird fiction/horror scene, Philip Fracassi has made quite a name for himself in the past few months. His first release, Mother, caught the attention of Paul Tremblay and Laird Barron, and catapulted Fracassi onto everyone’s radar. Altar cements Fracassi into the annals of weird and horror fiction with a well-written, tightly paced extravaganza that showcases his flair for solid characterization combined with cinematic, bloodcurdling terror.

With Altar, Fracassi conjures up the strongest elements of old-school horror with careful attention to detail of his characters. He’s able to jump from one character to another effortlessly, and manages to make his story people unique yet relatable. As soon as you get comfortable with these characters, Fracassi begins to twist the knife, making reader’s squirm with tension as horrors both human and supernatural begin their power play over the people at the pool. There’s no force-feeding the story here; the action begins quickly, and doesn’t let up until the end. Fracassi reminds us that we don’t need to know why, because it’s the not knowing, the very question of ‘Why’ itself, that is the scariest part of the story.

Using subtle hints of splatterpunk style gore, Fracassi keeps the fear factor high by showing just enough of the horror to let us paint our own images in our heads. Fracassi keeps the story firmly in the Weird Fiction genre with the realization that most horror can’t be reasoned with, or negotiated with. It is relentless and devoid of compassion. If we ever manage to escape the horror, we are forever changed by the experience, and always looking over our shoulders for the next encounter for the rest of our lives.

Fracassi’s Altar is a relentless and horrifying example of what it takes to make readers scared with relatable characters and cinematic style that is quite unique. The novelette hearkens back to the age of cutting edge horror made famous of the Dell Abyss line of books in the early 90’s while conjuring the best of the modern renaissance of Weird Fiction. Don’t let its brevity fool you, for the story inside the covers is full of bite and will stick with you for a long time to come. This is one little volume you definitely need on your bookshelf.



Publisher:  Dunhams Manor Press
Paperback (55 pp)
Release Date: 19 April 2016

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