I had no idea what Betty Rocksteady’s The Writhing Skies was about going into it, and I was surprised, disturbed, and unexpectedly delighted. Here is my spoiler-free review.
This book is a sort of sci-fi body-horror mash-up. You could also make a case for classifying this as “cosmic sex horror.” Whatever you call it: I am here for it. To be honest, body horror is not usually my thing. I have a high tolerance for gross and weird, but in terms of preference, I like my horror to be more about mood, character, and emotion rather than blood and guts.
That said, this book works because, for one, it has mood and character and emotion. And the body horror? Well let me just say, it’s not exactly what you would expect. It’s such a strange and weird and bizarre and “cosmic” take on the whole idea of body horror that it’s part of what makes this book so good.
It’s so gross and slimy, and as the story progresses you wonder how some of these characters are still alive, with everything happening to them. But, you get the sense that the only way to stop it is to keep moving, to push forward. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there are aliens, but they are also...not what you would expect. The aliens are really something Other, something so utterly not-human that I’m in awe of Rocksteady’s imagination. There is also a surprising sexiness to the body-horror that is...unexpected. It’s all just so skillfully done.
In terms of story, the pace moves. The characters feel real and the emotional core drives the plot. I would maybe suggest a trigger warning in terms of the trauma that the protagonist experiences near the end of the book. It is heartbreaking and explains so much of how these characters even ended up in this situation to begin with.
This isn’t the “type” of horror that I usually read, but I am so glad I did. It’s the heart and the emotion that sold me on the rest of it. It’s done in such a skillful, beautiful way that it just works for me. I recommend that you give it a chance!
On November 26, tune in for episode 25 of Ladies of the Fright podcast. We’ll be in coversation with Betty Rocksteady on the show!
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