If you’re a horror reader, Stephen Graham Jones should be on your radar and your bookshelf. The award-winning author of The Only Good Indians and Night of the Mannequins is a unique voice in contemporary horror fiction, and one that deserves the accolades he’s earned. His latest, My Heart is a Chainsaw, is out today and fans of classic slasher films will definitely want to experience it.
The novel centers on Jade Daniels, a young half-Indian woman on the verge of adulthood with an encyclopedic knowledge of the horror genre, and most especially of slashers, her personal favorite. For Jade, they are not only an escape from, but also a measure of the world around her. So, when strange events begin to take place in her small mountain town, she is the first to recognize the patterns.
Death has come and it’s up to Jade to save a town that most likely wouldn’t bat an eye if she disappeared forever.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is a deceptive book with a central misanthropic character that is as entertaining as she is exasperating, but what I loved about her most is that she is a whole person. She is more complex than any final girl and somehow more focused than Randy from Scream. That guy could easily be swayed with a few beers. Not Jade. Once she decided what was going down, she neither could nor would let it go.
Jade is only one part of this story, however. The author does not drop the ball with a single aspect of his novel. Secondary and tertiary characters are given just as much attention as his central players. If they have a name, they have a story. It may not be elaborate, but there is a reason to remember them and a means to do so.
Then there’s the town itself, rich with lore and built by a lake with, of a course, stories and legends of its own.
Of course all of this world building is for nothing if there isn’t a compelling story to go with it. Thankfully, Stephen Graham Jones scrimps on nothing.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is a story worthy of its characters’ complexities. It jumps from pulse-pounding, gore-fueled action to truly heart-rending moments with the ease of a finely-tuned machine. The horror in these pages is real. It’s palpable. It teases you with standard tropes, only to turn them on their head when you least expect them.
The final act is a thing of blood-spattered, jaw-dropping beauty, though for me it threatened to lose its way a couple of times.
At its heart, My Heart is a Chainsaw is really about so many of us who grew up horror fans, misunderstood by our friends and neighbors. It was written for those of us whose scars became dark senses of humor, and for those who found solace in horror films no matter the subgenre.
The fact that it also manages to reference and pay homage to–almost–every slasher film ever made is just the icing on the cake.
Check out My Heart is a Chainsaw out on Kindle, in paperback, hardcover, and on audiobook today.