Monsters come in all shapes and sizes and Joshua Radburn’s upcoming novel Shells proves it. At it’s core, Shells is a menagerie of genres and styles that all blend together to create a captivating horror/mystery that is incredibly unique. I am not going to give much of the plot away here because it is one that reader’s need to experience. Radburn has created a plot built of tried and true tropes (like a down and out cop) that are tried and true because they work. The brilliance of this plot is not because it is exciting, terrifying, and keeps the reader guessing (although it certainly does all of that), the true brilliance is how Bradburn pieces everything all together to create his mystery. I think that the plot is best described in the novel’s forward. It is a “plunge into [the] underworld of gangsters, guns, and monsters.”
The characters in Shells feel real. They feel like they are real people with real problems, real oddities, real emotion, and real faults. They have backstories and future stories. The characters truly feel like they exist outside the confines of the novel. One of the best things that Bradburn does with his characters is that he doesn’t waste ink and pages with overly explaining and describing them, he lets the characters introduce themselves with their action and words. This makes it feel like getting to know real people and not just characters in a book.
Joshua Radburn shows his love of writing in this novel, but more importantly, he shows a willingness and to challenge himself with his writing. Writing a novel that blends the intensity and excitement of gore and monsters with the subtlety and weight of the noir world is not an easy feat, but Radburn absolutely nails it. The genre-mixing feels organic and exciting and truly shows off Radburn’s skill. The atmosphere and world that exists within Shells is dark, gritty, gory, dirty, and wonderful! The forward explains that this novel was intended as a film, but became too large and morphed into a novel…I, for one, am glad it did! This style of writing lends to an incredibly detailed and visual world that paints a picture in the readers’ imaginations, but also leaves room for personal twists and “fill in the blank” room within those imaginations.
Honestly, I had to search long and hard to find a critique. The only thing I could really come up with is that, due to the genre-mixing, some of the styles of dialogue sometimes didn’t feel like they matched. It is all very well-written, but it can stand out a bit if the reader isn’t expecting it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The plot is intense and exciting, the characters are realistic, and the writing is extraordinary. It is a beautiful tribute to classic horror and mystery that stands solidly on its own merits and foundations. I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend Joshua Radburn’s Shells. Go here and watch for the release of Shells on October 1 so that you can lose yourself in the dark and gritty world within its pages.