Content Warnings: Sexual Assault, Animal Cruelty, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse
Before we get started, please note that What Hell May Come is not for everyone. Rex Hurst makes a point to include every taboo and controversial issue he can find (and insult pretty much all parts of the population at the same time), so if you’re a sensitive reader, you probably want to pass.
What Hell May Come is a novel written by Rex Hurst and published by Crystal Lake Publishing.
Jon St. Fond has never liked his family and it seems that the feeling is mutual. Growing up in a house devoid of love, he threw himself instead into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. But when unexplainable things start to happen to him, he suspects that there’s something more sinister going on in his suburban family than just emotional abuse. Soon, Jon finds himself locked in a web of deceit and depravity, with a horrifying destiny that puts all his fantasy games to shame.
The plot of What Hell May Come is fast-paced, moving quickly between one atrocity and the next. Events are presented as a sort of carnival of horror, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief. Did that really just happen? Yes. Yes, it did. But you’ll forget about it soon enough because something worse is coming next chapter.
I found the characters of What Hell May Come deeply unlikeable, though I suspect that is Hurst’s intention.
Jon is as self-absorbed and reckless as it is possible for a teenager to be. Though he is the protagonist of the story, he does little to elicit the sympathy of the reader. His abominable hatred of women clashes starkly with his obsession with losing his virginity. He decries his family as elitist while displaying the same behaviors he abhors. He hates his father but also emulates him in the most heinous ways possible. By the end of the novel, Jon’s actions have taken him so far that it’s too late for the redemption that Hurst offers. Overall, it’s a realistic look at the mind of a teenaged boy and just how far a worldview can be twisted by selfishness.
The rest of the St. Fond family is almost laughably villainous, as if making them more terrible would somehow redeem the complete boorishness that characterized Jon. While there are few redeeming qualities to be found in a family of Satanists, I would have liked to see more character depth. They seemed almost to be evil for the sake of being evil.
The writing suited the genre and the material. Descriptions were gritty and, at times, violently graphic. There were moments that were almost poetic. Hurst clearly did his background research on the topic and it shows in the details. The small introduction to the Satanic Panic at the beginning of the book was particularly interesting.
I’m sure there is an audience for What Hell May Come, but I wasn’t it. I felt that Hurst had a checklist of outrages he wanted to commit in writing this. To that end, he succeeded. He did push the boundaries of what is acceptable in writing, finding a home in the horror genre that he couldn’t have anywhere else. If you like your literature to challenge the lines of acceptability, then consider reading What Hell May Come.
Fans of edge-pushing horror will also like Freaks, an anthology of dark and gruesome circus stories.