One of the perks for writing for a site like SciFi Monkeys is that sometimes the editor says…hey, Chuck has been a pretty good boy lately…let’s toss him something cool to read and review. Which is pretty much how Gabriel’s Trial by well-known actor Robert LaSardo ended up on my desk. The book was released by Dark Moon Press.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, no offense to anyone intended but actors don’t always make the best writers. Then again, Robert LaSardo is hardly the typical actor.
He has extensive TV and movie credits, usually playing an outlaw, outcast, gang member or prison inmate. He has appeared in the X-Files, Nip Tuck, NYPD Blue and countless other TV shows. His movie credits include Human Centipede 3, Death Race, Tomorrow You’re Gone and once again countless others. I have always found him interesting, adding depth and nuance to cookie cutter bad guy parts but none of that matters because we aren’t here to discuss his acting career.
We are here to discuss his new book, Gabriel’s Trial.
Stephen King once said that the best horror stories aren’t anywhere near as scary on the big screen as they are played out in what he called the “theater of the skull”, inside the readers own head. Gabriel’s Trial is such a story, it would be easy to use a cliché phrase like a slow descent into madness but that wouldn’t begin to do it justice. Think of it more as a slow waltz along the thin line between dreams and waking life, between hallucination and reality, between good and evil and between one’s angels and demons.
Put less poetically, this story is pretty fucking brilliant.
We follow Gabriel, a tattoo artist with insomnia and a bushel basket full of writhing snakes list of other issues through a landscape tinged with a sort of desperate delirium. I don’t want to give too much away of the fantastically paced plot but he encounters a mystery women, shadowy figures that may or may not be real (whatever that word means in the confines of this tale) and strange complications that add to his crumbling sense of reality. The plot only seems to wander…yet, it is actually laser focused and leads the reader to the satisfyingly disturbing ending. This book actually left me feeling unsettled and slightly disconnected from reality, like a subtle acid flashback. The brilliant part is that despite the nightmare feeling of this book it is grounded in a certain gritty reality at the same time.
Fantastic illustrations by Drake Mefestta and Steven Hullander add to that effect instead of distracting from the story the way I find some illustrations do add to the fervor and fever dream feeling of this amazing book.
I give Gabriel’s Trial a full Five Bananas. However, the highest praise that I can give it, is that I know I will be thinking about it for days to come.
And maybe not sleeping so well tonight.