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While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants s While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides. Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.


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While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants s While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides. Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

30 review for Shelter for the Damned

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mort

    ”'Cause agony brings no reward For one more hit and one last score Don't be a casualty, cut the cord” CUT THE CORD – Shinedown I want to thank Mike Thorn for granting me the opportunity to read this story in exchange for a unbiased review. And, I also want to add, even though I almost talked myself out of it, I approached the author for this ARC because the description sounded interesting to me. The quote I started with – ossum song – is about addiction. My feeling about this story touches on the batt ”'Cause agony brings no reward For one more hit and one last score Don't be a casualty, cut the cord” CUT THE CORD – Shinedown I want to thank Mike Thorn for granting me the opportunity to read this story in exchange for a unbiased review. And, I also want to add, even though I almost talked myself out of it, I approached the author for this ARC because the description sounded interesting to me. The quote I started with – ossum song – is about addiction. My feeling about this story touches on the battle of addiction, even though it is done subtly. When I think back, the first real scary story I can remember about the subject was CHRISTINE by Stephen King. In that story, the geeky kid sees this car and it talks to him, subconsciously, and it becomes the most important – maybe the ONLY – thing in his life. The transformation in that story also had supernatural element, but at the core of that tale lies a battle with addiction, of being unable to help yourself even though it changes you for the worse. In this story we are looking at a shack. Teenager Mark and his two friends discover it in the middle of a field, abandoned and a good place to smoke some cigarettes. But Mark is drawn to it in a way the other two can’t understand. Nobody really knows him and nobody really understands him, neither adults nor other teenagers. He has a reputation as a troublemaker and a weird person, which alienates him even more from everybody else in his life. But he feels safe and welcome in the shack. When you get down to it, feeling misunderstood and strange in your own skin is a very common occurrence for teenagers the world over. When the opportunity to be accepted presents itself, most will jump at the chance, consequences be damned. That is the most dangerous time in most people’s life – for they can only hope that fate will get them to the other side – sane and in one piece: Pretty much like going to a Miley Cyrus concert. This story might be somewhat of a slow burn and there is a subtlety to the progression which makes this one of the least goriest horrors I have read in a long time. You will ask yourself, at some stage, if this kid is schizophrenic. Is everything only taking place in his head? Is he, perhaps, a born psychopath or is he turning into one? And I’m not going to ruin it for the readers. This story is solid, yet not as scary as perhaps esoteric in the final battle with the thing/himself. There may be elements to it which will be hard to digest for someone who is only looking for light reading – this story does not fall into that category. The only real criticism I have about this book is feeling a little unsure about the way Mark is – why, exactly, did he turn out so strange? I would have liked a little more info on his past, since the answer is not revealed at the end. Recommended to horror fans not looking for cheap, easy thrills... *Originally reviewed at IndieMuse * https://www.myindiemuse.com/author/mo...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janie C.

    Shelter for the Damned is a dark and surreal coming of age story. Mark is a high school student with a sharp tongue and a quick temper. He is constantly in trouble at school and at home. Alienated by most of his peers, he struggles to find meaning and direction while fighting dejection and loneliness. Mark and two of his friends come upon a derelict shack in a field and, upon entering for the first time, Mark feels instantly at home. His friends, however, are not as enticed by the dark structure, Shelter for the Damned is a dark and surreal coming of age story. Mark is a high school student with a sharp tongue and a quick temper. He is constantly in trouble at school and at home. Alienated by most of his peers, he struggles to find meaning and direction while fighting dejection and loneliness. Mark and two of his friends come upon a derelict shack in a field and, upon entering for the first time, Mark feels instantly at home. His friends, however, are not as enticed by the dark structure, and one of them ominously disappears within. The shack changes Mark. He feels in control, and something within him grows stronger. His tendency towards violence grows as well. Is Mark having a psychological breakdown? His encounters in the shack become increasingly surreal, and he senses a force stronger than himself taking control. Mike Thorn has penned a compelling novel about a very disturbed young man who may be encountering forces far beyond his own influence. The writing is concise and relatable, bordering at times on the poetic. This is an engrossing novel that kept me glued to the pages up to the conclusion. I would recommend this book to any fan of creeping dread and horror. Many thanks to the author, who provided me with an ARC of this novel. The above review is honest and unbiased.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Char

    Having read and been a big fan of Darkest Hours by this author, I was excited to read this, his first full length novel. I was not disappointed! Mark and his friends discover a shack in the middle of a field. From that moment on, Mark is obsessed with it. Obsessed with how the shack makes him feel. Obsessed with spending every moment he can there. Then, the shack starts asking him to do things-bad things. Will he do them or will he come to his senses? You'll have to read this to find out! This al Having read and been a big fan of Darkest Hours by this author, I was excited to read this, his first full length novel. I was not disappointed! Mark and his friends discover a shack in the middle of a field. From that moment on, Mark is obsessed with it. Obsessed with how the shack makes him feel. Obsessed with spending every moment he can there. Then, the shack starts asking him to do things-bad things. Will he do them or will he come to his senses? You'll have to read this to find out! This all sounds rather straightforward, but it's really not. This isn't your basic coming of age novel where everything is nostalgic and beautiful. SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is brutal in some ways, but also quite realistic. Mark and his friends are "normal" teens up to a point. None of them really gets along with their parents and in one case, the father is downright abusive. Mark's father isn't happy-go-lucky either. I found it interesting that everyone, and I mean everyone in the book knew about the abusive father and no one did anything about it. In some ways, "minding your business" even in the face of monstrous acts, is still a thing. The psychological change in Mark as the book progressed was fascinating. Staring out as "normal," (whatever you take that to be), and becoming more and more violent, this reader was wondering if it all could be blamed on the shack and its secrets, or was this sociological in nature? And what about those shack secrets? What was happening in there, exactly? Was it something purely in Mark's mind or was it real? I got a distinct cosmic horror vibe at some points, a crazy psycho vibe at others, (perhaps schizophrenia?), and pure confusion and obsession on MY part, because I had to keep reading-I needed answers. Just like Mark. I think any fan of coming of age horror fiction would find this read engaging. The story is fast paced and if you're anything like me, you'll be glued to the pages, trying to unravel the mystery of...the shack! Highly recommended! *Thank you to the author for the e-ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mindi

    Nobody has it easy being a teenager. I think being a teen and navigating the expectations of school, parents, and teachers is probably one of the toughest parts of growing up. Mark and his pals Adam and Scott just want a place to hang out so they can smoke a cigarette in secret. Mark in particular has a rough time at school. He's unable to control the burgeoning rage inside him, and so he is continuously caught fighting and sent to the principal's office. His parents try hard to connect with him Nobody has it easy being a teenager. I think being a teen and navigating the expectations of school, parents, and teachers is probably one of the toughest parts of growing up. Mark and his pals Adam and Scott just want a place to hang out so they can smoke a cigarette in secret. Mark in particular has a rough time at school. He's unable to control the burgeoning rage inside him, and so he is continuously caught fighting and sent to the principal's office. His parents try hard to connect with him, but they don't understand him at all, and at times the rage that burns through Mark comes out in his dad, who has come close to physically punishing his son on a few occasions. The boys need an escape, and so one night when they stumble upon a shack in the middle of a field, they decide to check it out and have a couple of smokes inside. The shack has an effect on Mark that the other boys are unaware of. The moment they step inside it gives him a since of warmth and security, and almost like a drug, Mark begins to crave the feelings the shack gives him. Unfortunately, his rage issues intensify when he isn't in the shack, and he eventually ends up suspended and in deep trouble with his parents. He's told he is not permitted to leave the house during his suspension, but Mark takes pains to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night so he can get his fix of the shack's comforting embrace. After retreating to the shack one morning after his mother leaves the house, Mark is horrified to find the shack completely gone from it's now familiar location. Desperate to make the shack appear again, he enlists his friends to go with him late one night, and to Mark's relief the shack is where they expected. Expect this time something is inside, and it changes the boy's lives forever. Now Mark is being questioned by the police, and his many fights are making him look particularly suspicious concerning the whereabouts of one of his friends. He's told repeatedly to check in with his parents, but the shack is now making demands of Mark, and he is forced to disappear for hours at a time to carry out its commands. This secret place that once made Mark feel safe has now become a terrifying horror for him, and after isolating himself from everyone he knows, Mark has to deal with the threats and demands of the shack completely on his own. I read this book in a single sitting. I started it in the afternoon, and by evening I realized that I was still furiously turning pages. This story pulls you in immediately, and then keeps you reading so that you can find out Mark's fate. I really enjoy coming of age horror, and Thorn nailed it with this novel. You can feel the awkwardness and longing in each of the teenage characters, and especially with Mark, I felt a deep sympathy for his misguided rage and isolation. He feels like an outcast from everyone, and it causes him to act out. The shack senses these things in Mark and ultimately uses him for its nefarious purposes. Add in a touch of cosmic horror, and the ending had me spellbound. Thorn's characters are all fully realized and Mark in particular is heartbreakingly sympathetic. Make sure you pick this one up when it's released next month. If you're like me, you will be frantically turning pages as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    As if adolescence wasn’t tough enough, a teen boy discovers an otherworldly shack that seems to bring out all of the growing pains, weaknesses and monsters that Mark will face in his journey between childhood and adulthood. Will this secret hideaway be his downfall, his journey into an unspeakable hell or something else? SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED by Mike Thorn is dark horror at its most intriguing as readers can simply read for the thrill of the darkness or interpret events in a much deeper way. Eit As if adolescence wasn’t tough enough, a teen boy discovers an otherworldly shack that seems to bring out all of the growing pains, weaknesses and monsters that Mark will face in his journey between childhood and adulthood. Will this secret hideaway be his downfall, his journey into an unspeakable hell or something else? SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED by Mike Thorn is dark horror at its most intriguing as readers can simply read for the thrill of the darkness or interpret events in a much deeper way. Either way, this story is riveting from start to finish as an emotionally lost teen discovers an escape within the walls of a hidden shack that will forever change his path. Chilling, filled with suspense, teen weaknesses, that feeling of “otherness” and knowing that something terrifying is just out of sight, but it is coming. Great writing, filled with atmosphere, this tale is one to definitely not miss. Mike Thorn has the talent to put together all of the jagged pieces and create a collage of darkness one surely won’t forget soon. I received a complimentary ARC edition from Mike Thorn! This is my honest and voluntary review. Publisher : JournalStone (February 26, 2021) Publication date : February 26, 2021 Genre: Horror Print length : 182 pages Available from:  Amazon For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex | | findingmontauk1

    Coming of age stories are always going to grab my attention. And then throw in some elements of horror and then you definitely have a reader out of me! In SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED, Mike Thorn's debut, we have a great mix of both. We also get a little more inside the main character's head as he struggles with feeling outcast, like he doesn't belong, a wife range of emotions and frustrations, as well as this descent into... well... finding THAT out will require you to read this book! The story follow Coming of age stories are always going to grab my attention. And then throw in some elements of horror and then you definitely have a reader out of me! In SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED, Mike Thorn's debut, we have a great mix of both. We also get a little more inside the main character's head as he struggles with feeling outcast, like he doesn't belong, a wife range of emotions and frustrations, as well as this descent into... well... finding THAT out will require you to read this book! The story follows Mark and his friends as they are discovering a shack out in the middle of nowhere. They think it will be a good place to cut loose, relax, and smoke some cigarettes. After the first visit, something about the shack seems to grab hold of Mark. Mark, who is a known troublemaker already, begins to display even more violence and ends up getting suspended. His parents are trying to make heads or tails of what is happening, even though his dad is one of the most awful characters. I hope he was intended to be worse than the dad/sheriff from the film Pet Sematary 2 before AND after he gets killed and turns evil... During his suspension he goes back to the shack. The shack is always calling to him. He sneaks out of his house and notices it is no longer standing. It is not there period. He gathers his friends to go check it out and it is surprisingly right where they all left it. At this point you are starting to wonder what is in Mark's head vs. what is really happening. Things just get worse and worse for Mark and his friends as he gets closer and more connected to the shack. One of my only grievances reading this book is the repetitive use of any iteration of 'f*ck.' It felt like I was reading a Scorcese script at times and it got distracting to me. I could have read longer and not seen it on the page nearly as often and might have even had a better impact. That's just my 2 cents on that. Fans of Christine by Stephen King and cosmic horror will eat this one right up! There are some great elements of both to be had in this stunning debut from Mike Thorn. He is a voice to look out for in the future! 3.5 stars rounded up to 4!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    My thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of this book. It releases next month! Nailing the voices and actions of teenagers in (horror) fiction is tricky business: I’ve certainly read my share of cringe-inducing coming-of-age horror novels that all want to be IT and failing miserably. Luckily, Mike Thorn’s teen-aged characters are written well, especially Mark, our main character. Much of this story hinges on the reader’s ability to “picture” and sympathize with this guy, in all his s My thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of this book. It releases next month! Nailing the voices and actions of teenagers in (horror) fiction is tricky business: I’ve certainly read my share of cringe-inducing coming-of-age horror novels that all want to be IT and failing miserably. Luckily, Mike Thorn’s teen-aged characters are written well, especially Mark, our main character. Much of this story hinges on the reader’s ability to “picture” and sympathize with this guy, in all his self-hatred and confusion and awkwardness. Hey, it’s puberty. And high school. And that’s the thing: Thorn nails the grittiness of being a teenager, especially a teenage male. A review I read of this book mentioned “male shame”, and I think it’s highly relevant. Shelter for the Damned could be seen, at least in part, as an examination of toxic masculinity—look no further than the overbearing, hardly-able-to-cope father of Mark, or the monstrously abusive father of friend Adam. Or even the laid-back but rather incapable father of other friend Scott. Much of the horror found here is in the horrible things men do to themselves, and others. I had only slight issues with this book. I felt Mark’s (possible) descent into madness was a bit rushed, and at times unconvincing; it was not aided by his occasional inner monologuing that spell out things the reader should already know/ponder: “Am I really going crazy?” etc. Moments like that took me out of the experience a bit, reminding me I was reading fiction. Oh, and I felt Mark’s love interest, while nice and interesting enough, was a bit of a manic pixie dream girl. Only a bit. But . . . Still. I was impressed by Thorn’s previous release, story collection Darkest Hours, and I suspected I’d like this too. I was right. For a debut novel it’s quite good: a horror story that goes in occasionally unexpected directions, it’s sure to leave the reader pondering what they just experienced.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lezlie with The Nerdy Narrative

    This story is what feels to me to be a sort of coming of age horror. I did received an ARC from the author to read and review and I believe the expected publication date will be 02/26/21. To briefly summarize the plot, this story focuses on 3 teenage boys who are described exactly as you would expect them to be and it was done so well as to make these boys feel real and actual. They're mission is to sneak off and smoke without being caught with their parents. In search of the perfect secluded spot This story is what feels to me to be a sort of coming of age horror. I did received an ARC from the author to read and review and I believe the expected publication date will be 02/26/21. To briefly summarize the plot, this story focuses on 3 teenage boys who are described exactly as you would expect them to be and it was done so well as to make these boys feel real and actual. They're mission is to sneak off and smoke without being caught with their parents. In search of the perfect secluded spot from prying eyes, the boys stumble upon an old Shack. Entering the Shack set in motion the malevolent force that drives the story forward. The writing style of the author was very enjoyable. It was free flowing, easy to follow, conversational. It was also very descriptive, which allowed me to feel like I was standing there watching it all play out instead of reading it. I LOVE that - it puts me right up front with the story and allows me to connect in a very solid way. I will preface this next part with a disclaimer: I am not an author nor am I an editor. I'm just a reader. This is a horror story, very clear going in what it is. There was nothing scary or horror related truly until Chapter 10 - practically midway into the book. In my opinion, Chapter 10 should have been where we started the story. Get some serious scary action in at the start to grab readers and suck them in - THEN have the character development and slow building plot in Chapters 1-9 with the concluding chapters. I also was left a touch unsatisfied that we got zero explanation of what this supernatural force was with the Shack. No explanation, no back story, nothing. Literally nothing. Not even a hint so I could theorize myself afterwards. It just sort of....stopped. I'm good with an unresolved ending, as long as I'm given enough information with which to work it through and have fun with - but this is strictly personal preference. At the end of the day, did the author do what he set out to do? Yes. I loved what he wrote. I just wanted MORE, which is never a bad thing when it comes to a book! I think Mike Thorn has some amazing potential and I will definitely keep an eye on what he's up to and what he puts out next for us.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    Superbly written. Initial slow burn as we get to know the characters, which beautifully settles us into the horror to come. Deeply unnerving and unique.

  10. 4 out of 5

    JLehtonen

    “Mark’s real bedroom, after all, had become a haven for ghostly sounds, dead bodies, and monsters. The Shack, comparatively, was a sanctuary.” Writing on Mike Thorn’s short fiction duology, Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation, I said “There’s something of an occult psychologist in every good horror writer.” A sweeping over-generalization, perhaps, but also a fine description for Thorn’s particular skills. Shelter for the Damned will strike an immediately familiar chord for those who’ve read Darke “Mark’s real bedroom, after all, had become a haven for ghostly sounds, dead bodies, and monsters. The Shack, comparatively, was a sanctuary.” Writing on Mike Thorn’s short fiction duology, Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation, I said “There’s something of an occult psychologist in every good horror writer.” A sweeping over-generalization, perhaps, but also a fine description for Thorn’s particular skills. Shelter for the Damned will strike an immediately familiar chord for those who’ve read Darkest Hours or the aforementioned duology, with its tale of suburban anonymity, everyday trauma, and abstract ghouls, but it makes use of its greater length to synthesize the diverse strands of Thorn’s imagination, and, I’d argue, potentiates the emotional core of those recurring themes and motifs. The focal point is the distorted mind of protagonist Mark, a lost and alienated teen. His sickness is our lens, a gamble on Thorn’s part to bring us closer to the Monster and grasp the root of his violence. Thorn himself describes this as a “coming-of-age” story, and as such we’re left to trace the emergence of another self in Mark, materialized into another of Thorn’s gray beings. From adolescent irresolution to the resolve to take life. One can perhaps get hung-up on the ambiguities -- how many of the supernatural events are inventions of this sick mind, and how much is really compelled by a force of cosmic evil? -- but that misses Thorn’s psychological craft: Mark is a portrait of the youthful mind divided, between the conditioning of what’s expected and the need to actualize outside of that, however broken and in fact psychotic the approach. It’s unnerving, but also desperate and sad. In a world of casual and accepted violence, the raw wound that is Mark highlights contradictory horror that is law: savagery in politesse, brutality in rites of passage. This law is embodied in the characters of the adults, more precisely the men, masculine violence in multiple permutations on a scale from the performative to the genuinely sadistic. “Playing Clint Eastwood,” the righteous authority of the more socialized men is understood as an inheritance of repressive role-playing. Authority’s severity is likened, repeatedly, to the inhuman gaze of an attack dog, be it a cop or a lecturing bystander, the threat implicit. On the other end, degenerating in addiction and economic malaise, masculinity distorts into sadism cloaked by closed doors. Given no center of social respect and discipline, its animality oozes outwards and damns others in its presence to its own narcissistic hell; its pain must not be contained but spread. Shelter for the Damned is a novel of fathers and sons, a novel of warped inheritance: Mark can perceive normality’s lines and, in some fragment of himself, the need to walk them, but the seeds of violence (planted, perhaps, by abuse) have grown uncontrollably, to the extent in which the aforementioned contradictions come into crystal clarity. For Mark can apologize, he can even “mean it,” and yet this in no way mitigates his path to damnation. It may even abet it. Compartmentalizing the need to assert, learned as the need to lash violently, and emotional responsibilities to others, felt as overwhelming pangs of guilt and in confounding encounters with intimacy, into parallel tracks of his being, Mark effectively removes himself from responsibility for his acts. He becomes the perfect scion for this suburban horror: oh-so-innocent and oh-so-murderous in equal proportions. We don’t talk about it, we don’t think about it, but we still do it. The Shack, like an empty plot, the far-edge of a massive parking lot, or some river’s concrete drainway, is one of those dead and anonymous suburban spaces. It reflects Mark’s own lack of center, lingering like a forgotten secret between more organized rows of houses. Flying from ennui or abuse, these negative spaces become, yes, unlikely sanctuaries, nooks and crannies for beleaguered souls to sequester themselves with cigarettes and bad beer. When a society is predicated on leaving what’s most frightening or painful unsaid, such spaces become truth’s strange haven -- albeit, sometimes, a terrible truth. Is Mark actualized by this space, or a slave to it? One and then the other. When Mark pushes further into the story and meets this space’s otherworldly presence more concretely, or, more accurately, is possessed by it, Thorn writes: “He was the indifferent but all-powerful energy that guided not only his own narrative, but all narratives…” Violence, at first an assertion of ego, begins to subsume him as element force. In giving himself to this force, the Mark that is of normality begins to fade, even literally in one particularly memorable passage. His pathological compartmentalization of his sickness cannot hold up to the pressure, and, in a gutting descent, he is stripped of anything that might’ve connected him to others in a healthy manner. And always, until the very end, the mask still tries to hold on. Apologetic and even confessional, the last remnant of Human Mark dies a pitiful death, alone, afraid, and consumed by what he set free. The novel’s most effective horror is found here. The success in Thorn’s characterization of Mark, budding sociopath, is in the realization of his adolescent confusion regarding these transformations. These aren’t the bold leaps of some fully-formed psychopath, but awkward fumblings, in both internal and external terms. The crimes Mark commits are clumsy, and his experience of his own descent inconsistent and torturous. He can never decide which him is the real Him, or at least can’t perceive having the choice. The novel’s tragedy is of a fall experienced by one who can’t even comprehend what that might really mean. Child of silent rot, condemned to create his own void. Damned, indeed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Barnett

    Whoa. Where to start? SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED, Mike Thorn's stellar debut, exists at the intersection between metaphor and everyday life. That's something of an oversimplification, I suppose--let me try again and see if I can strike a little closer. What we've got here is a book whose (exceptionally) big ideas have been grounded in the most ordinary of settings: suburbia. Those with an affinity for cerebral horror will be delighted by Thorn's deep exploration of adolescence's underbelly. There's a Whoa. Where to start? SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED, Mike Thorn's stellar debut, exists at the intersection between metaphor and everyday life. That's something of an oversimplification, I suppose--let me try again and see if I can strike a little closer. What we've got here is a book whose (exceptionally) big ideas have been grounded in the most ordinary of settings: suburbia. Those with an affinity for cerebral horror will be delighted by Thorn's deep exploration of adolescence's underbelly. There's a lot going on here, and while none of the subject material is particularly pleasant, Thorn is a deft navigator, capable of steering between the banal and the philosophical (not to mention the terrifying) with rare and refreshing nuance. I was especially impressed by the characterization and juxtaposition of the story's central father figures. I'm not going to dish out specific details, but some pretty horrific abuse takes place in one of the households--stuff that will make the most hardened reader squirm--and yet Thorn is wise enough not to wallow in these moments. He knows the value of a subtle touch. I said I wouldn't go into detail, and I won't, but I want to hang on this ledge for another moment. There's a father in SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED who is, not to mince words, a monster. But instead of seeing him at his most vile, we the reader are instead given a look at the chummy, just-one-of-the-boys mask he wears over his worst self. This contradiction, given what we know and learn about his temper, makes him believable and compelling when he could so easily have been tiresome. I've slogged my way through swamps of drunk, mean patriarchs in fiction, and too often do they veer into the realm of caricature. That doesn't happen here, and it was a breath of fresh air. As for the Shack itself, well, I won't say much. It would be hard to without spoiling the central conceit. That said, this book has some serious old-school vibes going for it. I'm talking John Carpenter during one of his headier outings (say, Prince of Darkness) or David Cronenberg, basically always. It's work that wants to be captured on film, and deserves to be. Should it happen, I'm there on day one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda (spooky.octopus.reads) Turner

    I love a good coming of age story. Growing up can be hard, but even more so when a mysterious shack materializes in your neighborhood and all but swallows your soul. Mark and his two best friends discover an abandon shack when looking for a place to just chill and smoke cigarettes. Mark is known as a troublemaker, a loner, the kid that no one seems to understand. He finds solace and belonging within the walls of the shack. Mark becomes entranced and obsessed with the power and acceptance that he I love a good coming of age story. Growing up can be hard, but even more so when a mysterious shack materializes in your neighborhood and all but swallows your soul. Mark and his two best friends discover an abandon shack when looking for a place to just chill and smoke cigarettes. Mark is known as a troublemaker, a loner, the kid that no one seems to understand. He finds solace and belonging within the walls of the shack. Mark becomes entranced and obsessed with the power and acceptance that he feels in the shack, and that obsession grows until it is no longer a curiosity, but something much more sinister. There is an evil lurking inside the shack-- an evil that takes one of his friends, an evil that whispers to Mark and demands blood. There is sooooo much going on in this book. It's one of those stories that will have you analyzing the "deeper" meaning of the plot events and underlying observations. There were several times when I wondered if what was going on was actually occurring or if it was all (or partially) in Mark's head. (But, I don't want to give too much away.) The themes of violence, addiction, friendship, and belonging are explored through immersive and hypnotic language- seriously, there are times when I felt like I was a bystander outside of the shack witnessing the events unfolding right in front of my eyes, screaming but no one could hear me. When the story started, I thought it would more or less just be a story of a stereotypical group of teenagers discovering a haunted house in their neighborhood, but it turned out to be so much more profound than that. What an excellent debut! Mike Thorn is going to be a voice to watch in the horror community, and I will certainly be excited to see where his writing journey takes him next. I would recommend that readers of horror who like stories that give them something to think about and define for themselves give this one a try! **Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

  13. 4 out of 5

    Josiah Morgan

    Mike Thorn’s particular skill is in reconfiguring the recognisable core tenets of horror into particularly loaded contemporary formats in which the mundane becomes philosophical and in which the horrific becomes sublime. As far as a text about teenagers is concerned, I simply don’t believe Shelter for the Damned – characters, here, appear more like functions of narrative drive, thematic simulacra for horror to be imprinted and imposed upon – but I’m not sure this is an issue. It is, after all, a Mike Thorn’s particular skill is in reconfiguring the recognisable core tenets of horror into particularly loaded contemporary formats in which the mundane becomes philosophical and in which the horrific becomes sublime. As far as a text about teenagers is concerned, I simply don’t believe Shelter for the Damned – characters, here, appear more like functions of narrative drive, thematic simulacra for horror to be imprinted and imposed upon – but I’m not sure this is an issue. It is, after all, a coming-of-age novel, and it’s one in which empty simulacra gradually recognize the condition of their own baseless existence, in turn growing up through that. Pynchon levels a similar accusation at Orwell’s 1984 – that Julia is ‘nothing’ until she transforms into ‘something’ – and Pynchon is right, but this doesn’t make Orwell’s deployment of Julia any less emotive or interesting, despite its stereotypical trappings. So, sure, Thorn’s characters are ‘nothing’ until they transform into ‘something.’ It makes the early tread of the novel tough, a little thick and knotty and expository, tough to sink your teeth into or to read a lot of at once, but also paves the way for the gradual unravelling of a superficially surface-y story to begin dealing with something else, something kind of nameless. The horror in Shelter for the Damned is nameless because it is epistemological. It is what the characters know and it is what the characters don’t know. Good guesses at making narrative sense of confusion turn other good guesses against themselves. As the characters move from caricature shells toward holistic beings, the semiotics of the text gradually deplete themselves of significance in startling narrative jumps that echo the films of Raimi and the written work of Pynchon. Gradually, the veil of reality lifts to reveal the smokescreen stage the characters are standing on – “drugs” / “PURE ADRENALINE” / “Night” / “Shackspeech” – Thorn’s world is one that shapeshifts around people. And here, then, is another purpose given to the slapdash nature of the boys in the middle of the text. Rather than reactive autonomous beings, the characters act as proactive networked beings. They are points of gravity and inertia for a world of objects that is in itself reactive. The ending of the book is wonderful, a marvellous magic trick, as the silhouette that opens the novel empties itself, too - as the boys have become full.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Three boys enter a shack, and although they all seem to feel that it is more than it appears to be, one boy falls helplessly under it's control. I can't say I ever figured out exactly what the shack is or how it chooses it's victims. Mark has always had a mean streak, a short fuse that is easily lit, and maybe that is why the shack has latched on to him. After their initial discovery, Mark's friends don't want to revisit the shack, but Mark is compelled to return, to the point of obsession. As Ma Three boys enter a shack, and although they all seem to feel that it is more than it appears to be, one boy falls helplessly under it's control. I can't say I ever figured out exactly what the shack is or how it chooses it's victims. Mark has always had a mean streak, a short fuse that is easily lit, and maybe that is why the shack has latched on to him. After their initial discovery, Mark's friends don't want to revisit the shack, but Mark is compelled to return, to the point of obsession. As Mark's friendships begin to deteriorate, so too does his school and home life, making the shack feel like the only good thing in his world. I felt that one reason Mark may have been easily swayed was his own proclivity towards violence but another may have been the implied physical abuse at the hands of his father. Although one of his friends is obviously abused repeatedly at home, the shack does not have the same hold over him so my theory could be wrong. It's possible that in addition to a supernatural element Mark may have suffered some form of mental illness because there were times I was not sure if he was hallucinating things that I thought his mother should have seen, if it were real. I guess this left me with more questions than answers, as to whether this is a dark descent into murder and madness, or a supernatural entity taking control. 4 out of 5 stars I received an advance copy for review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    First off I'd like to say I was given a copy of this book to read by the author for my honest review, which follows below.. Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I couldn't even write a review when I finished yesterday because I needed a minute! So this is a story about a teenage boy who runs across a 'shack' oddly in the field close to a suburban neighborhood. It is also unmarred by graffiti, etc., like most shacks would be. He and his 2 best friends feel like it would be a great place to chill an First off I'd like to say I was given a copy of this book to read by the author for my honest review, which follows below.. Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I couldn't even write a review when I finished yesterday because I needed a minute! So this is a story about a teenage boy who runs across a 'shack' oddly in the field close to a suburban neighborhood. It is also unmarred by graffiti, etc., like most shacks would be. He and his 2 best friends feel like it would be a great place to chill and smoke cigarettes, but it turns out for him to be so much more. It becomes a central point in his life which takes a dark unexpected turn. The book smoldered at first as the story and characters were established, so don't expect to jump right into the terror, but once it took off I couldn't put the book down until I finished. I especially enjoyed the great descriptions and backgrounds of the characters, mainly his classmates. There wasn't a whole lot of background on Mark, the main character, which made the story more ominous. Not sure what 'made' him like he was, or if there was anything. Also there were some interesting parents, especially fathers, and even his own relationship with his parents was surely a part of the plot. Not sure what else I can say without spoiling it for you except there were several moments of horror I was not expecting that creeped in and grabbed me. I could see in my mind exactly what was going on from the intricately detailed descriptions crafted by the author. I was very impressed. Hope you will check this book out, when it comes out. It comes highly recommended by me :)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aiden Merchant

    There's been a lot of love for this short novel at the time of writing this, so I feel a bit awkward having to report more opposition than my fellow readers. That being said, I am by no means about to tell you I disliked this book. It's just I had some issues that dampered the experience for me. I think my biggest issues came during the first 40% of Shelter for the Damned. I felt like very little happened, aside from friends constantly fighting and cursing at each other. I also found the two fath There's been a lot of love for this short novel at the time of writing this, so I feel a bit awkward having to report more opposition than my fellow readers. That being said, I am by no means about to tell you I disliked this book. It's just I had some issues that dampered the experience for me. I think my biggest issues came during the first 40% of Shelter for the Damned. I felt like very little happened, aside from friends constantly fighting and cursing at each other. I also found the two fathers highlighted in this story to be over the top and unrealistic. It's one thing to have one father that is sadistic and evil, but two? It seemed a bit much, like the author was trying to pile on. I also thought their dialogue and actions were comical at times, like they were overacting. And why did the boys feel the need to break into a shack at all in the beginning? They were smoking out in a field. It seemed forced, not necessary. Now, let me move onto the positives. Once I got half way into this novel and things began to pick up, they came fast and furious. The intensity definitely cranks up, even if I expected more action than what we get in the end. The dialogue becomes less annoying, the scenes more frantic, and the world more sideways and questionable. The bizarre cosmic feel you get at times is just tops, leaving you to wonder how much of the violence and aggression is really due to the shack's evil presence. Also, as a whole, the writing is very good in this novel. Even if my experience with Shelter for the Damned wasn't as powerful as it was for others, I still found enough to enjoy that I would like to read Mike Thorn again. If you like stories about dysfunctional families and the violence they can spawn, look no further than this novel. *** Highlights: The second half of the novel picks up at a break-neck speed … a vague ending that is strong and haunting Shadows: Overacting parents … some annoying dialogue … some unclear moments, like why a murderer was ever highlighted if he was never put to use in the story? FFO: Dysfunctional family drama and horror … rough characters that become unhinged Takeaway: Despite my share of complaints, I found Thorn’s writing to show great promise. Shelter for the Damned introduced me to an author to watch, at the very least. Would I read this author again? Yes *** REVIEW BY AIDEN MERCHANT → WWW.AIDENMERCHANT.COM CONTACT: [email protected] SOCIAL MEDIA: INSTAGRAM (AIDENMERCHANT.OFFICIAL) AND TWITTER (AIDENMERCHANT89)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nick Armstrong

    If you’re looking for a horror novel that is as chilling to read as it is compelling, Author Mike Thorn’s new novel Shelter for the Damned is such a great choice! It follows a distressed young man named Mark who, along with his best friends, comes across a mystifying Shack in a field that begins affecting the way that Mark lives. It’s a haunting story that makes you fear what you can’t quite even picture, with a sense of guilt and paranoia pervading the story, and a knockout ending that, in harm If you’re looking for a horror novel that is as chilling to read as it is compelling, Author Mike Thorn’s new novel Shelter for the Damned is such a great choice! It follows a distressed young man named Mark who, along with his best friends, comes across a mystifying Shack in a field that begins affecting the way that Mark lives. It’s a haunting story that makes you fear what you can’t quite even picture, with a sense of guilt and paranoia pervading the story, and a knockout ending that, in harmony with its exploration of addiction and masculinity, leaves you hurting for everyone involved. Read on for some more detailed thoughts! The novel intrigues from its opening chapter, introducing the reader to its somewhat childish characters through the perspective of someone who initially comes off as rather inward-thinking but slowly reveals his quick temper. That’s the novel’s protagonist, Mark, a high school student who seems to be constantly – and sometimes preemptively – assessing the threat of violence and other people’s potential for it. In that same chapter, we are also introduced to the Shack, a compelling and uncomfortable setting that quickly preys on Mark’s temptation and isolation. Shelter is a very tense and compelling horror/coming-of-age hybrid, in the sense that in the early chapters of the novel, we trust that Mark is doing what is right for him, but there is the added threat of him being caught doing so by adult authority figures who don’t quite trust him, even before he is entranced by the Shack. The novel’s specificity surrounding its suburban setting and the feeling of being in the homes of others versus your own is particularly serviceable to the tension that builds surrounding the increasingly upsetting behaviour that Mark exhibits throughout the rest of the novel. The novel is most effective in the all-encompassing nature of both its horrific moments surrounding the Shack, as well as the moments where you are lulled into a sense of comfort when Mark’s loved ones express concern for him, temporarily erasing the fear of what the Shack will compel him to do shortly thereafter. Given Mark has a temper before we are introduced to the Shack, those empathetic moments hurt even more when Mark turns around and acts against his better judgement and against what the reader wants for him. That’s what the Shack is, though, ultimately. It appears as a mundane structure in a suburban area, though it hides the most unimaginable evils precisely because it appears so normal on the outside. The mundanity of Mark’s life is so familiar that the unknowable cosmic horror that follows is just that much more frightening, because it brings weight to scenarios that one could easily see themselves in. That ties into the novel’s exploration of masculinity and addiction too, particularly with regards to how Mark perceives himself. Mark forces his friend Adam to promise he will never tell of the traumatizing things that he puts him through. His emotions are concealed and bottled up to the point where more violence inevitably manifests, even though Mark is tricked (by the Shack, by himself, by the masculine influences in his life) into believing that it is in service of preventing more violence overall. Mark grows an uncanny addiction to the Shack, seemingly aware that it is bad for him while he’s there but continually deluding himself into believing it is good for him when he’s safely made it away. His devotion to the Shack becomes especially concerning when it becomes clear that it is feeding on his regret and convincing him that he is not capable of being better like others want him to be. Mark’s romantic interest, Madeline, causes extra conflict for him as well, because though their relationship is precisely what he has longed for, he is too comfortable in his obsession with the Shack (going as far as comparing their importance). Though his relationship with her, too, points to unhealthy masculinity as he is immediately, even instinctually, tempted to unload all of his trauma onto her in a way that he does not consider doing with his friends. Shelter exists at an intersection between cosmic and nihilistic: the cosmic nature of the Shack’s hold over Mark is important to hang onto so that we can realize that despite how obviously poor the choices Mark makes are, he is being pulled to do them, injecting a sense of tragic fate into Mark’s character that becomes more literal late in the book. The book’s most impressive segment, to me, comes towards the end where Mark is faced with the horror of what he’s done and his reality begins to warp. Mark describes the Shack’s door as being mouth-like, so when the Shack abandons him it is easy to imagine that mouth morphing into a smirk, knowing it has consumed Mark wholly. This segment points to the character having viewed his life as a horror story, and that he felt his fate was fixed so he continued to give power to the Shack. The way that Shelter wears its influences is very impressive to me, in that it doesn’t emptily mimic other horror writing, nor does it feel the need to shift into an explicitly meta-mode, but rather it is an original and authentic story that feels inseparable from the consumption of horror. It rings of horror stories echoing against each other to create an unrecognizable horror indistinguishable from one’s life. A cosmic horror story with the influence of having access to Eli Roth and Stephen King (to cite a few of its in-book references), of having access to the knowledge of the perception of horror’s influence on readers & viewers. The book is being published February 26th, so if this review interests you, I definitely recommend picking up a copy! I appreciate Mike Thorn sharing an advanced copy with me and asking me to share my (unbiased) thoughts! He’s a talented author of horror who has impressed me in pulling no punches with this debut novel!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Justin Lewis

    Being lost. Committing a serious crime and knowing that I can never tell anyone. Being an utter disappointment to my family or those I care about. Having nowhere to go and no one to turn to. These are my nightmares; not monsters, not demons, just realistic terrible things that could actually happen are what I find terrifying. SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED wracked my nerves something furious- this is the most anxious I've been while reading a book in a long time. "It's Satan's pad. It's a spaceship. It's Being lost. Committing a serious crime and knowing that I can never tell anyone. Being an utter disappointment to my family or those I care about. Having nowhere to go and no one to turn to. These are my nightmares; not monsters, not demons, just realistic terrible things that could actually happen are what I find terrifying. SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED wracked my nerves something furious- this is the most anxious I've been while reading a book in a long time. "It's Satan's pad. It's a spaceship. It's a monsters stomach. Who gives a shit? It's a place to enjoy a fucking cigarette." ~ Adam speaking about the shack Mark is a mostly normal, if not troubled, teenager. Still figuring things out. Awkward around the girl he likes. Anger issues and bad grades. Parents that don’t really seem to get him. He likes hanging out with his two best friends, even though they get on each other's nerves, as friends tend to do. One day, while looking for a place to smoke where they won’t get caught, they see a shack that none of them have noticed before. Something's off about it. Mark finds that he's drawn to this shack over and over at all hours of the day. When he's there, the rest of the world melts away. He’s safe. But it's not just a shack. As Mark’s shelter demands more and more from him, his life spins completely out control. Horrible things happen and Mark doesn’t have anyone he can turn to. It does take a while to get going but once the terror train leaves the station, it's non-stop anxiety the rest of the trip. There are a couple things that didn’t totally work for me. As mentioned above it takes a while to get going; you’ll read almost 10 chapters before something that feels like traditional horror happens. Maybe it wold have been better if the character development was spread out a little more. It’s this reader’s opinion that it’s worth it to stick it out, but you should know that going in. Also, the book’s ending might leave you with some questions. We don’t really get to know much about the shack, its motivations, or who’s calling the shots. It’s almost left open for a sequel, but since there’s been no mention of one, I think this is all we’re getting. If ambiguous endings aren’t your thing, you might not love how this turns out. So what did I like? I can’t overstate how nervous this book made me feel. I was one of those kids that followed all the rules and any time I tried to break a rule I got caught- EVERY SINGLE TIME. The teenage version of myself and Mark don’t have too many things in common, but Thorn’s writing really pulled me in and I was consistently thinking about what I’d do if I was in that situation. I probably wouldn’t have made it as far as Mark does, that’s for sure. Also, there are two scenes/sequences I will mention (but not spoil) that I loved: - A scene involving something in a closet that I won’t forget anytime soon for multiple reasons. - There’s a section of the book that gets cosmic and dreamlike in a big way that’s really compelling. In summary, SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is suburban coming-of-age horror with shades of Stephen King, Lovecraft, and the movie Brainscan (without the villain with the red mohawk for comedic relief). This is Mike Thorn’s first novel and if this is the caliber of longer fiction we can expect from him, I’m all in on whatever comes next. 3.5/5 stars (rounded up to 4 for Amazon) * I was provided an ebook ARC for review by the author

  19. 4 out of 5

    Randy Schroeder

    Mike Thorn's Darkest Hours will terrify you. If you've already read Thorn's masterpiece of short terrors, Darkest Hours, you will not be surprised that you're terrified; you may, however, be surprised as to why you are terrified. Shelter for the Damned certainly has all the shocks, gore, and nasty surprises that horror fans love. But beyond those genre requisites, this novel gets under the skin precisely because it gropes beyond genre, and triggers those more persistent terrors that live in all Mike Thorn's Darkest Hours will terrify you. If you've already read Thorn's masterpiece of short terrors, Darkest Hours, you will not be surprised that you're terrified; you may, however, be surprised as to why you are terrified. Shelter for the Damned certainly has all the shocks, gore, and nasty surprises that horror fans love. But beyond those genre requisites, this novel gets under the skin precisely because it gropes beyond genre, and triggers those more persistent terrors that live in all the layers of human experience. What if life is a meaningless nightmare? What if we are puppets in an uncaring universe? What if we have no real control over who we are, or what we do? What if dread, anxiety and depression have no real cure, and no good explanations at all? Telling the tale from the POV of an adolescent male is a perfect choice. Who is more confused than a self-identifying, adolescent young man? Who is thrashed about by more inchoate rage and self-doubt? Who is more self-destructive? Maybe everyone, but male youth is a perfect vehicle to express what may be a universal nightmare. Thorn presents male adolescence in all its granular horror—the small resentments, the misrecognitions, the petty power plays, the inchoate longing, the misdirected rage, the unexpected violence, and, most of all, the final failure to make meaning of all this teenage chaos. The result is a high-test narrative cocktail that you'll probably chug at a single sitting. But the novel also rewards long sips at second and third reading. Thorn's sleek and linear storytelling houses a complexity of almost folkloric dimensions: equal parts bildungsroman, addiction narrative, portal myth, doppelgänger fantasy, escalating nightmare, monster gorefest, scary boy’s tale, and old-school page turner. There are many dark delights to be had in Shelter for the Damned. But for me, the novel's lasting terror is its deeply felt paradox, its creation of an uncanny space between the real possibility that things will be different, and the certainty that they will not, on that threshold where intense longing for selfhood is dimmed and finally darkened by intense fear that selfhood will never arrive. Read it. And weep.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Life in books Ric

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. ⓇⒺⓋⒾⒺⓌ Shelter for the damned - Mike Thorn Mark and his group of friends discover a mysterious building - a shack, in the middle of a field when looking for somewhere to escape teenage life and smoke cigarettes. I was always told that smoking stunts your growth, amongst other things so I’ve alway given cigarettes a swerve. If only someone had told Mark and his friends, it may of prevented a whole heap of hot mess! Troubled teen Mark, soon feels a powerful pull towards the shack, but when the shack wa ⓇⒺⓋⒾⒺⓌ Shelter for the damned - Mike Thorn Mark and his group of friends discover a mysterious building - a shack, in the middle of a field when looking for somewhere to escape teenage life and smoke cigarettes. I was always told that smoking stunts your growth, amongst other things so I’ve alway given cigarettes a swerve. If only someone had told Mark and his friends, it may of prevented a whole heap of hot mess! Troubled teen Mark, soon feels a powerful pull towards the shack, but when the shack wants something in return for its hospitality Mark finds himself with a lot of blood on his hands. Shelter of the damned is a dark and violent coming of age tale which I thoroughly enjoyed, with just a couple of slight niggles (for me). I really wanted to connect to Mark and the friends relationship, but it seemed they weren’t that found on each other - almost constant bickering and arguing made me wonder why they were mates to begin with. I would of loved for the action to kick-off a bit sooner, however, once it did start it was full steam ahead. Despite those irks, this is a very good debut from the author and I will definitely be checking for his future releases. Thank you Mike for providing me with this Arc in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marna

    A friend once described a cigarette as ‘five minutes you don’t have to worry about anything.’ Maybe you don’t remember, or are starting to forget in adulthood, how very much there was to worry about as a kid, but Shelter for the Damned will bring it all rushing back. A word of caution, though: this isn’t your dad’s horror nostalgia trip. Mark, Adam, and Scott find a place away from the constant questions and problems of adults where they can smoke cigarettes and have those five minutes … only, tu A friend once described a cigarette as ‘five minutes you don’t have to worry about anything.’ Maybe you don’t remember, or are starting to forget in adulthood, how very much there was to worry about as a kid, but Shelter for the Damned will bring it all rushing back. A word of caution, though: this isn’t your dad’s horror nostalgia trip. Mark, Adam, and Scott find a place away from the constant questions and problems of adults where they can smoke cigarettes and have those five minutes … only, turns out there’s a horrible price for this respite. Finding out what will alter the reader. One thing the book understands very well are how the most innocuous childhood memories can twist into a terrifying shape. Adults have forgotten – or are too consumed by their adult lives to think about – these horrors, except maybe, very, very, late at night. Thorn’s work invokes both childhood fears and those late-night moments when existential dread sinks its teeth into you as an adult and suddenly, you remember how helpless you still are.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richelle SheReadsHorror

    Review of “Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn” Release date 2/26/2021 A cosmic coming of age novel that will have you chewing your nails down to the quick. Mark and his friends seek out a place to sneak their cigs. You know, all that coming of age jazz, where kids are sneaking around to do the things parents wouldn’t approve of. When they come upon this shack, it seems like the obvious place to sneak off too where no one could tell on them. There’s something euphoric about the shack for Mark th Review of “Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn” Release date 2/26/2021 A cosmic coming of age novel that will have you chewing your nails down to the quick. Mark and his friends seek out a place to sneak their cigs. You know, all that coming of age jazz, where kids are sneaking around to do the things parents wouldn’t approve of. When they come upon this shack, it seems like the obvious place to sneak off too where no one could tell on them. There’s something euphoric about the shack for Mark though and almost addicting, until it starts to get into his head. There were some definite highs to this book for me such as the creativity of the story and the action towards the end. It blew me away with its mind bending cosmic horror scenes and even drove my heart racing with some of the decisions the main character made. The lows of this book for me were the interactions/dialogue between Mark and the other characters in the beginning and the lack of connection. Where this book felt lacking in some areas it made up for it in others so I gave this one 3 ⭐️. The action and anxiety inducing scenes in the middle to end of the book makes me want to try more of this author's work in the future for sure. Thank you Mike for sending me this ebook in exchange for an honest review!

  23. 5 out of 5

    J.A. Sullivan

    Every year around film awards season, I find myself scrambling, making sure I haven’t missed watching any of the nominated movies. These are supposed to represent the best of the best, so my expectations are high. Then, almost without fail, I’m utterly disappointed – not at the ultimate winners, but by the nominees in general. Movies that are championed as superb, cerebral, and unflinching, just don’t seem to do it for me. That probably says more about my personal taste than a critique of the ac Every year around film awards season, I find myself scrambling, making sure I haven’t missed watching any of the nominated movies. These are supposed to represent the best of the best, so my expectations are high. Then, almost without fail, I’m utterly disappointed – not at the ultimate winners, but by the nominees in general. Movies that are championed as superb, cerebral, and unflinching, just don’t seem to do it for me. That probably says more about my personal taste than a critique of the accolade process, and keep that in mind, because the same thing can happen to me with books. After reading the synopsis of Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn, I was pumped to crack that novel open. Troubled teens, suburban violence, and a terrifying, sentient building – yes, please! And once advanced rave reviews began pouring in, I was even more excited. Sadly, however, my experience with this book was reminiscent of being disappointed by award-nominated films. The story follows Mark who stumbles across an abandoned shack in suburbia when he and some friends are looking for a place to smoke cigarettes. All three teens are both drawn to and repulsed by the mysterious building they could have sworn wasn’t there before. But from the first time Mark steps inside, the shack becomes an obsession. Like an addict, he needs to go back as often as he can, and by the time he realizes the entity of the shack expects something sinister in return he’s helpless to resist. Much of the novel is spent with Mark being isolated, but I never got a deep insight to his character. Something changed within him before the story begins, leading down a path where he’s constantly filled with rage, and I felt it was a missed opportunity that his backstory wasn’t explored, especially given the amount of time spent with only him and his thoughts. Through conversations with his parents, it’s revealed that at one point Mark was receiving counseling, however the reason why his sessions began or ended is never discussed. My experience with the other characters wasn’t much different. From the parents to the other teenagers in the story, they all felt self-absorbed and hollow, with stilted dialogue. I don’t have a problem with unlikeable characters as long as there is something that explains their motivations. As a reader I want to gain an understanding of what the characters hope to gain or avoid, and I felt this was lacking throughout the story. However, I did find some fantastic passages and descriptions throughout the book, and that’s what kept me reading to the end. Brawls between Mark and another student were tense and captured the gut-wrenching brutality that can consume teenaged boys. There were also a few scenes where Mark comes face to face with the cosmic entity from the shack which were supremely creepy. One of my favourite lines was from a nightmare Mark has of this being, and screams “…Until he’d screamed sound itself into extinction.” Unfortunately, these terrific sections weren’t enough to fill the void I felt with the rest of the book. *Review first appeared on Kendall Reviews*

  24. 5 out of 5

    Austin

    Thorn's short story collection Darkest Hours had nightmare-glimmers peeking behind short bursts of prose, and here, the ghoulish descriptions sort of ooze. A chapter describing a larvae creature is particularly grotesque, and the central shack is a hub for borderline ethereal terror. Thorn's short story collection Darkest Hours had nightmare-glimmers peeking behind short bursts of prose, and here, the ghoulish descriptions sort of ooze. A chapter describing a larvae creature is particularly grotesque, and the central shack is a hub for borderline ethereal terror.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Niall Howell

    A lucid suburban nightmare. Richly textured, visceral and haunting. I had the immense pleasure of reading an advanced copy and I can't recommend this enough. Top notch horror from Mike Thorn. A lucid suburban nightmare. Richly textured, visceral and haunting. I had the immense pleasure of reading an advanced copy and I can't recommend this enough. Top notch horror from Mike Thorn.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Suburbia, in the middle of a field lay a shack. First few visits intriguing maybe, dread follows. The apparent and the unapparent lurks, great trepidation and malevolence to follow. In youth, boys had places to hang, yards, treehouses, caves, and playgrounds, the Shed is one trip in which at least one of these three boys, Mark Scott and Adam, would be thinking twice undertaking a step into its threshold again. This is Mark’s story, one of the three friends. Many things for Mark to decipher amidst the Suburbia, in the middle of a field lay a shack. First few visits intriguing maybe, dread follows. The apparent and the unapparent lurks, great trepidation and malevolence to follow. In youth, boys had places to hang, yards, treehouses, caves, and playgrounds, the Shed is one trip in which at least one of these three boys, Mark Scott and Adam, would be thinking twice undertaking a step into its threshold again. This is Mark’s story, one of the three friends. Many things for Mark to decipher amidst the Shed’s pull. There is the Mark before and after the Shed. The metamorphosis is undeniable. The unsettled disturbed soul looking in crevices of life for answers but this may just be the wrong avenue for transcending. Hyper-real dreams and the addiction to some sense of inclusion and feeling whole. Ones battle with self, wrongs and disturbances, then there is the deciphering of the Shack with confronting real terrors, and “secret narratives,”a hook to keep burning though the tale. A capacity for a level of violence in the future something has the knowledge of and wants to advance any future violence to a terrible few days in this town with the macabre, with the most overwhelming form of influence, “invoking malice” and “terror resurrected”. There is a 2021 interview I hosted with the author @ https://more2read.com/review/interview-with-mike-thorn/ Review @ https://more2read.com/review/shelter-for-the-damned-by-mike-thorn/

  27. 5 out of 5

    Terence DeToy

    Near the end of Mike Thorn’s 2021 "Shelter of the Damned" plays in the backyard of a well-worn trope: that the experience of the white, middle-class suburbs isn’t what it seems. However, Thorn elevates this anxiety to pure existential (even metaphysical) dread. Near the end of the novel, a crack opens up in the wall of the shack. This is the crack in the quiet suburban world his characters inhabit and through it pours everything our better natures suppress. Mark and his two friends, Adam and Sco Near the end of Mike Thorn’s 2021 "Shelter of the Damned" plays in the backyard of a well-worn trope: that the experience of the white, middle-class suburbs isn’t what it seems. However, Thorn elevates this anxiety to pure existential (even metaphysical) dread. Near the end of the novel, a crack opens up in the wall of the shack. This is the crack in the quiet suburban world his characters inhabit and through it pours everything our better natures suppress. Mark and his two friends, Adam and Scott, discover the shack early in the novel. They use it as a place to smoke and get away from their families, all of which are overbearing in different ways. The abandoned shack sits in an overgrown field, an improbable presence in their carefully curated suburban landscape. It is surrounded by perfect houses, their windows peering at them like eyes. The novel’s logic is carried by the idea of looking—of scrutiny. Scott’s father won’t allow a hair to be out of place on his son’s head, enforcing in him a fear of the juvenile rule breaking which is part of the suburban individuation process. Adam’s father is a violent drunk who maintains the self-presentation of a handsome corporate CEO. Both of them exert suffocating authority through the maintenance of appearances. Mark’s father, always a hair’s breadth from a violent outburst, compulsively cuts the lawn, as though he could transmute his aggressive impulses into a continued beautification project. However, Thorn doesn’t make you look under the grass to find a raw state of nature. Aggression spills out at the slightest provocation; conflict escalates with strangers, classmates, parents and each other. Life in Shelter for the Damned is what you see in a nature documentary: a never-ending ordeal of running and fighting. The shack represents more than an escape: it’s an inversion of suburban living. The grass in the field, unchecked by any mower, has grown to an uncouth height. The shack itself has no presentational mandate. In fact, it is curiously undefined: “Gray walls of unknown material and obscure memories. Shapeless structure, shapeless purpose.” The shack is little more than a novelty for Adam and Scott—it’s just a place to light some smokes and shoot the shit. However, for Mark, there is an immediate pull: “As soon as he entered, he didn’t want to leave. He was not equipped to understand. He only knew that, in this strange and intense moment, he wanted to breathe the shack’s squalid air forever.” The shack soon starts to exert a powerful influence on Mark’s priorities. He feels a sharp need to be in the shack as the novel progresses, as though it magnifies something deep inside him that he is unsure of. When he is there alone for the first time, a tall lanky entity manifests. Tellingly, it reminds him of a junkie. Mark himself slips into withdrawal whenever he is not in the shack. He panics and shakes. When he confronts an addict on the street panhandling from Adam, he reacts violently. He cracks the man’s skull with a rock and the reader is left to ponder who the real junkie is. This is a coming of age story, but it's also a novel about violence and addiction. Thorn brings these thematics into alignment. A sinister force sends Mark into spiral of murder, but the violence lurking just below the surface of his community leave the reader pondering how much of what results is the work of the creature and how much is the result of this otherwise unassuming neighborhood. The novel’s pacing is relentless. You may find yourself breathing only during page turns. Thorn has a real knack for building intensity to a fever pitch and letting the effect carry over into the action. His prose is smooth and his dialogue stretches the anger of juvenile angst without forcing it into unnatural banter. What’s really terrifying about this novel is it’s fidelity to the suburban experience—that is, what’s scary is how realistic so much of it is. Thorn writes with a visceral intensity. After Mark’s first fight with Clinton, he runs to the shack: “He was still shaking while he ran. He pushed his body, mind putting matter into a stranglehold, and he ran faster. The shakes became tremors. Rattled his body as he sprinted down the sidewalk. He kept going. Tried to run the shakes away. He ran until dull pain came thudding into his chest.” What’s so intense about this novel is how closely the narrative follows Mark’s experience. Note the absence of a grammatical subject in several of these sentences. It’s as though Mark himself were talking and too out of breath to give the reader fully coherent statements. But also, this subjective elision is a way of making him disappear. Mark’s greatest fear, ultimately realized at the end of the novel, isn’t to die, but to simply disappear. Prose like this tells us that throughout the entire novel, Mark is performing a vanishing act—existing, but not being there. This is a supple and yet powerful debut--much recommended for fans or horror (and David Lynch movies).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris Patrick Carolan

    “What the fuck could happen? It’s a fucking shack. It’s an old, run-down piece of shit and Mark has a hard-on for it, for some goddamn reason.” Mike Thorn’s debut novel SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is a remarkable journey into suburban insanity, adolescent rage, the power of addictions, the struggle for identity, and so much more. Having read Thorn’s short fiction—his short story collections DARKEST HOURS and DREAMS OF LAKE DRUKKA & EXHUMATION are essential—I went into this thinking I knew what to expec “What the fuck could happen? It’s a fucking shack. It’s an old, run-down piece of shit and Mark has a hard-on for it, for some goddamn reason.” Mike Thorn’s debut novel SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is a remarkable journey into suburban insanity, adolescent rage, the power of addictions, the struggle for identity, and so much more. Having read Thorn’s short fiction—his short story collections DARKEST HOURS and DREAMS OF LAKE DRUKKA & EXHUMATION are essential—I went into this thinking I knew what to expect. Oh, many of Thorn’s hallmarks are here, to be sure; there’s gore, and violence, and unspeakable creatures in unexpected places. But SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED takes the reader deeper into the dark and tormented world Thorn continues to probe like that raw bloody tooth socket you can’t stop tonguing. Now, before I dive in, I want to mention that I felt something of a personal connection to the book’s setting, which is central to the story. Not the actual setting, of course, as that remains unspecified… but as it turns out I spent my teenage years in the same suburb as Mike Thorn (coincidentally enough, I moved back into the old neighbourhood in 2019). As such, I had no trouble at all picturing the streets, the strategically spaced-out greenspaces and playfields, Mark’s school, and even the convenience store as described in the book. But all suburbs built between 1970 and 2000 look, smell, and sound the same anyway (and all that has changed in those built after 2000 is cladding and lot size) so don’t feel that you’ll be at a disadvantage here if you grew up in some other postal district. What Thorn explores to great effect in SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is what you don’t see when walking those streets at night. Malice lurking behind practiced smiles. Violence hidden behind manicured lawns. Subtle (and not-so-subtle) psychological warfare swirling behind double-glazed bay windows. There is no shelter to be found in these perfect little houses. Perhaps that’s why, when Mark and his friends find an old, abandoned wooden shack in a field one night, he feels drawn to it. His friends see the shack as a place to hang out, kill some time, and smoke some cigarettes, but before he even walks through the door Mark is overwhelmed with a euphoric sense of belonging. The Shack is everything suburban life is not, a home he never found in his parent’s house. The Shack soon edges out just about anything else in his thoughts (second at times only to the smile of a pretty girl in his math class). But it’s not long before the Shack begins to reveal its true nature and purpose, and Mark’s grip on reality and his own sanity start to slip. It’s clear, though, that Mark’s problems don’t begin with the Shack. His troubles at home and history of schoolyard violence stretch back to well before he ever laid eyes on the Shack. Perhaps that’s why, of the three youths who entered, he is the one chosen for the Shack’s diabolical ends. Answers about what exactly the Shack and its inhabitant(s?) are remain few through to the very end. It’s entirely possible (and in this reader’s opinion very likely) that the shack and the horrific entities within and without are all aspects of the same being. The whole thing veers toward cosmic horror, and while some readers may feel shorted by the ambiguity in the narrative, in my opinion keeping things vague in this regard works here. A short read, SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED crams a wealth into its roughly 190 pages. Thorn’s prose is stripped-down and accessible, and works to bring the reader into Mark’s adolescent POV. Where Thorn peppers in references to the giants of horror cinema (particularly Wes Craven, George A. Romero, and John Carpenter) could easily have come off as fanboyish, but some of the book’s most memorable scenes effectively call such visuals to mind; the creature in the closet is pure Carpenter, and is wonderfully realized. The lasting scares and most visceral horror herein, though, come from the more mundane elements. SHELTER FOR THE DAMNED is a powerful comment on idle suburbanism, and absolutely worth your time. Trigger & Content Warnings: Addiction, Alcoholism, Child Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Gore, Graphic Violence, Murder, Abduction/Luring, Mild Teen Sexuality, Overall Morbid Theme My thanks to the author and publisher for providing a complimentary advance copy for review. This in no way influenced my rating or review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Philip Elliott

    It's such a treat to read a coming-of-age novel more dark and violent than most stories concerning violent adults. This is the kind of twisted novel I was dying to read when I was coming of age myself, and hits hard even now during some of its more graphic scenes of violence. It follows troubled teenager Mark, who, it seems to me, is a sociopath, as he discovers a shack in the middle of a field near his home where an evil presence has manifested, requiring murder of Mark, who, at first, seems qu It's such a treat to read a coming-of-age novel more dark and violent than most stories concerning violent adults. This is the kind of twisted novel I was dying to read when I was coming of age myself, and hits hard even now during some of its more graphic scenes of violence. It follows troubled teenager Mark, who, it seems to me, is a sociopath, as he discovers a shack in the middle of a field near his home where an evil presence has manifested, requiring murder of Mark, who, at first, seems quite happy to oblige. Mark becomes addicted to the sensation of being inside the shack; perhaps Mark gets off on the feeling of been seen--really seen--as a powerful being in his own right, willing and able to commit murder, rather than merely the weirdo fuck-up viewed by his friends, family, and peers. But, as happens with evil partnerships, all quickly unravels for Mark as his relationship with this evil being becomes one of master and slave, threats and submission, fear and blood. This element of the story reminded me of the bully in Stephen King's It who, as a psychologically twisted adult, carries out the will of the creature feeding on the town of Derry. The evil creature here shares similarities to King's creature, but Mike Thorn's Shelter for the Damned is ultimately a much darker tale than King's. Rather than explore themes such as overcoming fears and discovering friendships, Thorn delves into social isolation and otherness, toxic masculinity and male violence, addiction, the nightmarish paranoia of suburbia, and, behind it all, a kind of existential hopelessness that you don't find in a King novel. There is a cosmic aspect to this story as it progresses that brings to mind H.P. Lovecraft's short story The Colour Out of Space, which was itself brought to vivid realization last year in a film of the same name directed by Richard Stanley starring Nicholas Cage. That film, with its stunning and at times grotesque visuals, cosmic theme, surprising violence, and characters' descents into madness, is a good starting point for an idea of what you will encounter in Shelter for the Damned. Thorn's ability to trap the reader inside a vivid scene is second to none, particularly when Thorn somehow describes, painterly and with detail, what can not be described. Such descriptions are almost hallucinogenic, and bring to this novel a depth that elevates it above most in this genre. Its themes of the violence of masculinity and sheer pressures of masculinity on the men who strive to meet them are layered and impressive (and important), illustrated best in the sudden violence that surges out of a scene like a flash of lightning to retreat just as quick--which makes it realistic and, therefore, chilling. And this is indeed a chilling novel, with many scenes that lift the hairs on the back of the neck. Structurally, this is an unusual story in that, when you think you have the structure figured out, Thorn pulls the rug out from under you and, like the evil being at the core of this book, the plot mutates as Mark's situation becomes increasingly dire until an unpredictable and clever ending cements what you already knew: Mike Thorn's Shelter for the Damned is one of a kind--a staggeringly excellent debut by a promising new voice in horror.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This story follows Mark, a troubled teenager with troubled friends, Adam and Scott. They love to hang out together, play video games, and smoke cigarettes. In their wandering hangouts, they come across a shack in the middle of a field in suburbia; it's abandoned. They claim it as their own and find it to be a fun, albeit creepy spot to smoke and escape their home realities. Adam and Scott seem able to take it or leave it, leaning more towards leaving it, but for Mark it becomes an obsession and This story follows Mark, a troubled teenager with troubled friends, Adam and Scott. They love to hang out together, play video games, and smoke cigarettes. In their wandering hangouts, they come across a shack in the middle of a field in suburbia; it's abandoned. They claim it as their own and find it to be a fun, albeit creepy spot to smoke and escape their home realities. Adam and Scott seem able to take it or leave it, leaning more towards leaving it, but for Mark it becomes an obsession and calls to him when he is apart from it. One night, he entices his friends to join him again at the shack, and reluctantly they join him, even though they don't feel the same way about it that he does. Everything changes for the worst that night when all three boys realize that the shack houses, maybe even embodies, something faceless, nameless, and evil, and its hope is to use Mark as its vessel. "Shelter for the Damned" is a supernatural horror story that touches on the needs of the young who have hard, sometimes abusive lives. It gives off the feeling that had these boys received the love and compassion every human being deserves, they might not have been so inclined towards the darkness that is the Shack. Negligence, abuse, and the pain of youth all play a part in drawing these kids into something bigger than themselves, but there is some ambiguity here that also says anyone could have found that shack and been pulled into its sinister needs because it's just that powerful. There seems to be a lesson here that says people can't really win against evil by playing its game, but once you start falling down that hole it's nearly impossible to pull yourself back out of it. Then when you're in that hole, or shack, because of irreversible actions, you've already found shelter for the damned, so why not make yourself at home? The writing and editing in this book is good. I love a book that keeps my eyes strolling along a page easily and quickly with no distractions like grammatical errors or spacing issues. It made reading this book a pleasure. I kept one line highlighted because it really summed up what a person who is experiencing a supernatural situation while simultaneously trying to deal with 'normal life' might be thinking, "He selected his words with great caution. Thoughts of unthinkable violence, of the Shack's faceless face, kept gnawing holes through the utter banality of this conversation." I left this book with an aftertaste of unending horror and a real sense of loss. It made me want to seek out Mike Thorn (who happens to live in the same city as me!) and ask him what his own childhood was like, and who hurt him. I recommend it! A big thank you to Mike Thorn for providing Horrorbound.net with an ARC and you'll find my review coming there soon!

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