Review: The Gods Who Want to Die

By Nadia Bruce-Rawlings

Oh my god, what did I just read!?! Luke McCamley has written an insane book in The Gods Who Want to DieIt is graphic as can be, so be warned, but it is so good. I did get a little confused, I’ll admit - I’m still not sure how to explain the cult that lies at the center of the story. But the book definitely sucks you in and keeps you engrossed.
The PR blurb states: “A devoted mother (Shelly) is torn between love of family, and loyalty to a religious cult leader whose demands become increasingly bizarre—and deadly.” The cult is Necrotheism, a cult that helps immortal gods end their lives through the ceremonial mock-deaths of cult members. It’s led by Magnolia Blanchot, a charismatic and mesmerizing woman who is currently pregnant. She and Shelly are involved, and Shelly is convinced by Magnolia that she must kill her own son in order to save the cult. I’m not going to go into the plot too much as I don’t want to give spoilers, but suffice to say it is filled with gruesome murders, cannibalism, fires, and plot twists galore. 
The history of the Necrotheists is confusing - there are several chapters that flashback to the 1400’s or earlier for explanation, but they were a bit complicated for me. And at 382 pages, the book is a bit lengthy. But overall, it is really fascinating. One definitely has to be prepared for the graphic scenes - certainly could be triggering for many people. They are so intense! 
This is the opening page of the novel:
“When Shelly cut off her son’s head, she took back control of her life for the first time in fifteen years. 
It was an act of pure apostasy. 
Forget that it was also a crime. That was no more relevant than the fact that her son was already dead when it happened. Grave robbing something that came out of your own body shouldn’t be a crime anyway. Sometimes, to grow new skin, to start again, to cut out a new life, one must first cut away the dead flesh. 
That’s why she did it. 
It was a figurative severance as much as a literal one. Like the stubborn musculature of Pelham’s neck, the shackles of indoctrination had caged her mind ever since she joined the Friends of Suffering as a young woman. When you give everything to an ideology, including your own children, and when that ideology consumes them whole, eats them alive (and with your consent), taking back the dead bodies piece by piece becomes an act of revolutionary madness. 
Shelly was a good mother.”
I don’t know about you, but that sucked me in! And it just gets more graphic and bizarre from there. Well written, and for a self-published book very well edited (I found one misspelling in the whole thing). Author McCamley is apparently a former Mormon, and has a background in teaching philosophy, religion, and ethics. The novel is very well researched and is very intelligent. It blends horror with magical realism and drama and mystery and thriller - all the genres you could want, rolled into one. The characters are well developed and believable. In all, this is a powerful novel, graphic and gruesome for sure, but a wild, enjoyable ride!