There are two types of novels that deal with evil in circulation today, and both are widely read.
Perhaps reading one occasionally will not upset the reader — though in some cases it might — but a diet of them could possibly alter one’s outlook and attitudes for the worse.
The books in question today are Grist by Linda Little (Roseway Publishing, Fernwood, no price given), and The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen (Bedlam Press, Necro Publications, Fla.). The author is a Maritimer living in the mid-western states.
These books represent two types of evil addressed to two types of readers. Under the guise of a three-generation family narrative, Grist depicts several types of evil which can take hold of a person and ruin him, such as depression, the after-effects of war and rigidity of belief.
In The Spartak Trigger, the whole world and everyone in it are soaked in violence and hatred. The characters, for the most part, hate themselves and everyone else.
Grist and its like are aimed at educated readers — even intellectuals — and are written in a conventional manner. The Spartak Trigger is, on the whole, aimed at younger generations. The book seems to rush along without stopping or slowing until it’s done. The use of the present tense throughout is of great assistance.
The story of Grist begins with the strange courtship of Penelope, a teacher, to Ewan MacLaughlin, a hardworking solitary, mill owner. They marry, but soon she discovers “Ewan was not a kind man.” Nevertheless, she stays with him, in spite of his becoming stranger and even more rigid in his ideas. The next generation suffers in different ways, from being very badly brought up, and severe depression — eventually to the point of suicide. Penelope's grandsons, after a hard upbringing, have a better fate, they go West — the time is about 1930 — probably to find a better life in every way then. This is the barest outline of a novel which is finely written, but ultimately is dangerously depressing.
The Spartak Trigger is harder to comment on because the pace is so fast and the characters have little personality, they are but puppets set up to cheat, kill and be killed. Paradoxically, the book is an easier read than Grist, although by no means to be recommended.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at her new address: 95 Orange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5, or call her at 506-693-5498.