Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The Safety of Unknown Cities by Lucy Taylor


THE SAFETY OF UNKNOWN CITIES was recommended in this erotic horror thread I sometimes hang out in. The comparisons to Clive Barker both intrigued and terrified me because Barker is a fantastic author, but his stuff definitely pushes the limits of what I can handle. This book is a lot like the Hellraiser series, especially with the hedonistic sex addict heroine, Val, who fucks the way other people do hits of morphine; she needs greater and greater extremes to get the same highs, but it's never enough.

That's why she's searching for this place called The City. It's a place so terrifying that some people would rather blind themselves than see it-- unless you're a pervy weirdo, and then it's heaven on earth, where no sex act, no matter how depraved, is disallowed. Val goes all the way to the middle east with an intersex man who is also her lover, who holds the secret to The City over her head to toy with her.

But Val isn't the only one looking for The City. Breen, Val's ex lover and a serial killer-slash-sadist, is now looking for it, too.

I knew this book was going to be hardcore because it literally opens up with a graphic eye-gouging scene. It only goes downhill from there. I felt really uncomfortable reading this book and as with other readers, it made me feel a little physically ill. I found myself comparing it to THE HELLBOUND HEART, which was also about pleasure taken to wildly horrific extremes, but in that book, Barker left a lot of the horror to the reader's imagination. Here, Taylor feels the need to lay it all out, and the end result of that is that all of the body horror just gets stacked up on top of each other, until by the end of the book, you're asking yourself both what the point of it all was, and when it would end.

I skimmed to the end because I wanted to see if the characters made it out okay. None of them were particularly likable but with a book like this, it's kind of nice to know who-- if anyone-- makes it out alive. One of my favorite characters in the book got a pretty raw deal, so that was a bit of a bummer. Not sure I'd recommend this to anyone but readers of the extreme horror genre.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

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