Review: The Monsters In Our Shadows

By Nadia Bruce-Rawlings

“About The Monsters In Our Shadows:
It's been a century since "the great consumption." Humanity has been devoured to the edge of extinction by the ever-ravenous Shivers - terrifying, shapeless creatures that latch onto their hosts, tormenting them over time before consuming them all at once. The last of civilization lives in the crumbling city of Atlas, where they subsist on processed insects and await their inevitable fate.”

We follow Anthem, the protagonist, through this quite scary horror story. He is the Exilist, essentially someone who helps the afflicted meet their death, bringing them to the Deadlands to be devoured by their Shivers. He too is afflicted, and can see his Shiver getting stronger, but is determined to do some good for the people before he is Exiled. His daughter Melody lives in the orphanage since his wife died. He can visit her, and tries to bring her some joy in this dismal world.
The novel opens with Anthem performing an Exile on a woman who is falsely filled with optimism about what awaits her on the other side because of the propaganda brochures the government provides about Exiles: “Bon voyage. A guide to your departure from Atlas. Happy, happy, happy!”  But then we meet her Shiver, a horrible shadowy monster that devours its host when the time is right. Shivers are a frightening lot.
I’ll leave the spoilers out, but suffice it to say this is a really good book. I held my breath in several parts, the fear palpable. And the character development is excellent. I really grew to love Anthem, who despite his faults wants only good for the surviving population of Atlas. The beginning is perhaps a bit long, but at 398 pages the book moves fairly quickly overall. I really wanted to know what happened to Anthem and his daughter.
The author, Edward J. Cembal, has recently been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and this debut novel is meant as an allegory for depression and other internal struggles. We see Anthem fighting his depression with great strength, fighting it for his daughter and to help the survivors. He is truly a good man inside, filled with hope despite the dystopian world in which he lives. While it waxes and wanes, he fights through to bring hope to his child and to the others.

Honestly I’m not normally a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, but this is definitely an  exception. It is apparently being developed into a film, and I must say I will definitely be in the audience. Kudos to Cembal for this strong debut novel.