“Death Obsessed” by Robert Essig
Review by Zakary McGaha
Death Obsessed is, without a doubt, one of the best indie horror books I’ve read in a while. Usually, I’m really easy to please when it comes to horror, and it takes a lot for me to say a book is really bad. Consequently, it also takes a lot for me to say a book is above average, which Death Obsessed certainly is.
The story follows Calvin who’s instantly relatable to all of us horror freaks as he’s a certifiable horror addict. Calvin is particularly drawn to the gorier films as well as videos of real-life carnage, such as the videos they show high-schoolers in driver’s ed. This partiality soon leads Calvin down a dangerous path as he falls in with a completely psychotic, nihilistic group of seemingly supernatural freaks who begin pushing him toward a devastating fall from grace and humanity.
The thing I admired most about Death Obsessed, aside from the well-drawn characters and fantastic pace, was the portrayal of an atmospheric, nightmarish California, which made me think about Dennis Etchison the whole time I was reading. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that California Gothic, Double Edge, and Shadow Man were all influences.
Essig’s prose was simple, straightforward, and serviced the plot and characters. The simple, straightforward approach can sometimes make a story fall flat, but it worked here, seeing as how this was a character-driven/atmosphere-driven story.
Calvin’s girlfriend, Ronnie, was another well-drawn character who was as sympathetic as Calvin was annoying (at times, the dude made some awful decisions, which were somewhat forgivable seeing as how he was being led astray by supernatural forces).
Calvin and Ronnie’s relationship is a major focal point of the plot, as it’s constantly being threatened by Calvin’s obsession. I’ve read about some messed-up fictional relationships, but this one’s pretty close to the top of the list, if not being #1 itself.
To be honest, I was floored by this release, and am eagerly anticipating reading more stuff from this author. If you like atmospheric, melancholic horror peppered with dashes of extreme gore (and, seriously: how could you not?!) then this book is for you.