VERUM MALUM by Michael R. Collins
Life is getting better for Ben and Noah until people from Ben's past come calling, making him realize one does not dabble in infernal rituals and human sacrifice without paying a price. These people worship something far worse than the Devil, and a place far worse than Hell: the Verum Malum. Now Ben and Noah must survive the murderous attempts to bring him back into the fold, leading them into the malevolent heart of the Malum itself.
How far would you go for the one you love?
This is the second book I've read by this author, I really enjoyed the characters and the theme. Engaging and well-written, recommended for sure.
Drag me to the Malum
I lovvvvvvvved this story, Mick did an incredible job at setting the scene and keeping an intense pace. From the very start of the story, it's like BOOM smacked in the face by this intense and ominous satanic ritual scene. Already setting out the players and showing that Ben is the only member showing any regret or remorse for what just happened. Then five years after the night in the basement we meet Ben again but this time he is happily married and just survived a traumatic health scare. We meet Noah and get to see the couple's first fight and then the raw vulnerability of both of them. I was instantly hooked, pulled into the relationship completely, and as the story went on I genuinely felt like I was reading about a real-life couple in love. But as always with horror, the past is bound to find a way to sneak up on you. As Mick shows us what happened to the cult that Ben was with at the beginning and they have plans for Ben. The horror and occult elements in this story are enticing and keep you entranced with the action and gore. I love the introduction of the other characters, especially Jackie who is the very protective Bestie of Noah. I love the bond that these two have and she is fiercely protective of both Ben and Noah. I think the way that these characters develop and grow together as the truth is revealed is perfectly done. I enjoyed the variety of character types as well, especially with the "if the Scooby gang went metal" characters in the form of Emaciated Angel. Marius is another great character that you love to hate, trust me you won't find it hard with how well Mick has written him. So here I am rooting for the assholes to die and for Ben to get his happily ever after. But NOPE Michael has other plans, as we learn more about the hellscape and the demons that reside there. You start to get a Hellraiser meets Drag me to Hell vibe, with this story and honestly, he does an epic job. The way he described the other plane of existence, and the detail he put into the rituals so that it wasn't just blood, gore, and shock value. I love every moment of this book. Accept towards the end when he turned me into an emotional wreck! I blubbered like a baby near the end because I was gutted. How he twisted and turned his way throughout the story, I have no idea why I didn't see it coming. I guess I just wanted so badly to see the bad guys get they're just deserves however, I still wanted that happy ending. Too much to ask I know, but the journey itself was hella worth the heartbreak and honestly, this author owes me a part two, or we are having words!
A quick & dirty (and wonderfully inclusive) little take on cults and demon summoning.
One of the most enjoyable parts about reading indie releases is the uncertainty of what you’re jumping into. You never really know what you’re going to get. For the most part, in my experience at least, when you read an offering from an established author, you kinda already know what to expect. Reading Koontz? Get ready for troubled characters with supernatural abilities, small-town friendliness, and animals that are intrinsically tied to the plot (remember when all of his books had a golden retriever and a .38 Chief’s Special revolver?). Jumping into some of the established YA novels? Whelp, you’ve probably got at least one love triangle and “chosen one” trope, and each of them are about to punch you square in the face. But, with indie authors, at least at first, it’s really anything goes. Like the Wild West of storytelling. Take Verum Malum for instance. I truly thought I knew what I was getting into, what with all the rituals and human sacrifices and such. And boy was I wrong! Because, face it, we’re all familiar with the satanist storylines. They were huge back in the day, contributing to the Satanic Panic in the 80s, establishing tropes and expectations for decades to come. And, initially, Verum Malum seemed to be cut from the same cloth. But as the story unfolded it gradually shifted to something else. To say WHAT exactly would be venturing into spoiler territory, and I am always loathe to do that. Suffice to say it has more in common with H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones than it does with established notions of Heaven & Hell. I also wasn’t expecting a (by all accounts) straight author to handle a queer relationship so deftly. But Michael R. Collins imbues this short with both PoC and LGBTQ+ sensibilities, and it is all the better for it. I can’t speak for all genres, but in my experience, it truly feels like Horror was way ahead of the curve on inclusivity. One of the big reasons that I love this crowd! Another area where this book excels is in the imagination department. Mr. Collins does NOT skimp on the details…and what gruesomely delightful details they are! The dark & evil things are appropriately twisted and nasty, and I have to give props to any book that features musicians from a metal band as characters. And yes, underneath all of the infernal trappings, it IS indeed a love story. And a totally unique one at that. But for all that it does right, there are several missteps to be found in Verum Malum. There are more than a few instances of words being used repetitiously. Nothing egregious, and maybe I’m more susceptible to them due to my own works being in editing, but either way…it was noticeable. Also, the story starts out strong, avoiding the frequent mid-book slouch that most authors are prone to, but kinda loses momentum near the end. Where it should be picking up steam, Verum Malum slows down a bit. Personally, I think the story needed a more breathless denouement. Those nitpicks aside, Verum Malum was an enjoyable romp through the “summoning evil” sub-genre, with plenty of unique ideas and very modern (and appreciated) sensibilities. It’s also a solid offering from new publishing company Gloom House. Check it out if you’d like a different take on the “satanic worship” type of story!
A fantastic and immersive read!
Oh my gosh, that was fantastic! Verum Malum is truly a fantastic read. The story is more than the synopsis suggests. Yes, it is occult horror; yes, it has the whole demonic thing going; yes, both are expertly done. But this isn’t a satanic tale; it’s cosmic occult demonic horror! And it’s a great story. Michael R. Collins gets 5 stars for diversity alone. His characters are a diverse lot, and they are realistically presented without detracting from the story. Who they are is part of the story. For example, I personally identified with a character statement that ended with “… I need to be aware of every possible way out of a room. It’s the reality of being a woman.” This is a truth we live, but it was not an in-your-face sociopolitical statement, it was a relevant part of a well-crafted scene in the story. It was actually a pretty vital part of the scene at that moment, and the whole of what the character said was perfect. But to continue, the story itself is immersive and riveting. I found myself ridiculously emotionally invested in the characters and the storyline. I felt the tension physically. And I apparently muttered things aloud under my breath, according to my husband. (Him: “What did you say?” Me: “I’m reading here.” Him: “Are you okay?” Me: “I’m reading here.”) Whatever. On a human level, Verum Malum is a story about love, lust, greed, choices, and sociopathic appetites. On a literary level, the story is a blend of subgenres, defying labels and taking the reader beyond the expected occult horror, beyond devil worship, beyond our own self-righteous opinions of good and evil. Okay now I want this in physical format. It’s shelf-worthy. I highly recommend this book and can hardly wait to read more from this author.
A kick-ass trip to the dark side!
I just finished reading Verum Malum and what a freaking wild ride this was. Tomorrow when you get up and contemplate your day, there is really only one thing you need to do, Buy this Freaking Book! There is a realm that exists, somewhere between our world and the existence that is neither Heaven nor Hell. It is much closer to hell, only it is far far worse. When Ben was a younger man, he got involved with the wrong crowd (Understatement of the year.) This group that he ran with were well practiced in the dark arts of the occult and discovered a way to breach the plane between our world and the Malum. It is through human sacrifices that demons that exist within the Malum may pass through the plane and enter our world. That is enough to completely freak Ben out, and he leaves the group and goes into hiding. But, years later, he is found, and it is clear that the demonic seeking group has set their sights on him once again. Collins delivers this story with a sucker punch that hit me in the gut. It is a creative look at a dark world through a fresh set of eyes, complete with a brilliant cast of characters including, my favorite, a satanic metal band. Well done, Michael R. Collins, and hats off to Gloom House Publishing for this release. Verum Malum is available tomorrow 1/9/22 at Godless and Amazon. 5 out of 5 Emaciated Angels