Review: Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (2011)

Bottled AbyssReview by Jaq D Hawkins

The original release of Bottled Abyss was nominated for the Bram Stoker award in 2012, and it’s easy to see why by the end of the first chapter. The 2015 re-release that I’ve read is described by the author as the “updated and preferred version.”

The prose is very descriptive and emotive. It actually gave me quite an emotional kick in the gut when the story started out with Herman and Janet reacting to the loss of their daughter, each in their own way. For Janet, that comes in the form of alcohol and suicidal tendencies. When Herman goes out to look for their missing border collie dog, the heartrending goes even deeper, then takes a sudden supernatural turn.

The writing is extremely good and I felt as though I was there with Herman, trying to deal with the series of devastating losses, and then a surprise came at the end of the first chapter. I would soon learn that was only the first of many. I wondered at that point if it was going to turn out to be a vampire story, but I quickly learned that it’s considerably more original than that. The problem is, I don’t want to give away what’s actually going on because the discovery is part of the reading experience. Let’s just say that there’s a restructure in the celestial realms.

One scene was more sexually graphic than is my preference, but it’s just the one. Parents will have to decide for themselves what’s acceptable for younger readers or not.

As the story continued to unfold, I got very caught up in it and kept wanting to know what was going to happen in the next chapter. Whatever you expect, that won’t be it! No one is safe and there are no pulled punches. Insightful thoughts of some characters during impending death make it too easy to identify with the horror of what they experience. By the time I got to the second part, I was out of breath, literally!

I was also completely horrified by what I thought was about to happen next. That too went a totally different direction than expected. Ethridge does suspense well and up until the last couple of parts, I was totally gripped. At that stage the story takes a surreal turn and the mood totally changes. The supernatural elements have slowly taken over and some very original and insightful changes take place. Despite the depressing themes of death and loss, the spectrum of emotions the author takes us through and the skill with which he leads the reader literally through Hell and back (in some mythologies) makes this a very worthwhile read.

I can’t say that I identified with any of the characters or even liked many of them, except the dog and maybe Herman a little, they were each distinctive personalities and made up an interesting texture on inter-relationships among the primary players. I would definitely read more by this author, though hopefully something that wouldn’t make me come out of it feeling like I was coated in oily slime.