Book Review: CHERUB by David C. Hayes

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Cherub by David C Hayes

I first encountered David C Hayes in an online writing workshop I took last year. His stories for the workshop were fun to read, and when he was looking for reviewers his new novel Cherub, I jumped at the opportunity.

A small town misfit gives birth to a giant baby so large that it breaks her hips when it comes out. Years later, when the mother dies, the mammoth of a human with the mind of a child is left in the custody of the state. He’s carted off to the Blessed Arms mental hospital, a backwater institution that mostly serves as a dumping ground for people who the state has no idea what to do with. There he meets the head nurse, Angie Fletcher. Angie realizes she can manipulate this giant man (nicknamed Cherub for his love of Valentine cards) and put his incredible strength to use for her own purposes. After she has him murder the director and gets herself installed as the replacement, she turns the asylum into a meth lab using patients as workers. Things seem to be going smoothly for Angie and her partners, until Cherub falls in love with another patient.

When I described this book to Tim Ward, I called it Frankenstein meets One Flew Over the Nest. While that’s not completely inaccurate, it’s a bit of an oversimplification. The story is a mash-up of horror, crime, and even a demented love story. David Hayes manages to pull all the elements together in a way that none of them feel out of place. It reads and feels like a late 70s/early 80s exploitation film with its plot as well as its length and fast pace.

The length is one of the downsides of the novel, in my opinion. There were many opportunities to explore more of the characters and hash out their backgrounds a bit. We get some scenes from the titular Cherub’s childhood, but I would like to have read some more. Especially about Cherubs mother, a tragic figure who I don’t think we get to learn enough about.

Still, as it stands, CHERUB is a solid and fun read. It kept me turning the page, managed to create genuine pathos in its main character, and reminds us how the mentally disabled are still treated as by many sub humans even in this day and age. The violence and sex in CHERUB is extremely graphic, so it’s not for the faint of heart. I would recommend this highly to fans of horror fiction, especially to fans of authors like Richard Laymon and Edward Lee.

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4c4iIXqDBen Arzate lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Ugly Babies, Bizarro Central, Spoilage, The Mustache Factor, Twenty Something Press, and Keep This Bag Away From Children. He blogs at http://dripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com/

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