Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast review —
“I had the pleasure of reading this with a bunch of wonderful bookstagramers hosted by Ben Long. I’m very glad it was this book, because Jonathan Winn deserves all the reviews. To think that he has not been totally raved about, praised to high Heaven, or caused more existential nightmares, is as abominable as what you’re about to read in Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast. Buckle up, you may not like what you’ll be confronted with (and that goes for what I’m going to say).
“I could summarize the stories, give you a clinical dissection of each one—but many good reviewers have done that justice and I agree with most of their sentiments. What I really want to talk about is what Eidolon is as a whole, because it’s a terrifying entity.
“Winn, right of the bat, suspends the reader in an ambiguous, dreamlike state. Whether there was more explicit detail of the location and physical structure of Eidolon in the first book, I don’t know, but I kind of hope there wasn’t. Winn affording us only so much detail when it comes to places and people forces our minds to meld and warp its idea of what this world looks and feels like. It lends power to situate the building and its occupants to places and people more familiar to ourselves. When it all comes down to it, Eidolon could be anywhere. Your city, your neighbourhood, your very street. It’s that decrepit building you pass on the way to work, the one you think should be condemned. One of many places you think nothing of but decay; empty without a heartbeat. These characters you may have seen before, possibly asked yourself “I wonder what they’re going through,” but shrugged off in the end. A life easy to forget.
“Nor does Winn linger on the nasty sensations any poor character feels because, in the grand scheme of things, is that really significant? Fans of Lovecraft know what I’m talking about, may be most famous for this in fiction, our insignificance as a species to greater forces within this endless universe, but Winn makes sure it hits us at our core. He strips people down to their bassist selves—just another animal—and treats them as such. Impulsive, ravenous, selfish, destructive. Like the savage, beastial activities we watch on National Geographic with detachment. It’s just another deer eaten, another cub left to starve. But in this particular case, when it all comes down to it, it’s just another human…and that’s terrifying. Terrifying to think that we’re the ones before the camera, the zebra killed by the lion as the viewer watches with little more emotion than “Oh, that sucks.” A kind of inhuman viewer to which we are nothing but toys for.
“You want to know the horrors of Hell that Sunday services only hinted at? It’s right here. Eidolon is Hell itself. Disjointed, ever-changing, labyrinthian. A place of endless suffering tinged with a kind of disturbing beauty we could never see, but those who never walked the Earth with human feet would savour. Wounds don’t bleed, they sob—flesh is nothing but mendable fabric. This is the poetry of malevolent entities who see us as disposable—the bugs whose legs you’d pull off as kids. With this book, you can practically hear distant wailing carried past your window by a light breeze. Most from those paying for their nefarious transgressions, but a few unfortunate souls who fell into unavoidable traps. Their wails are the loudest.
“But you can’t help but listen, can you? Winn grabs our innate morbid curiosity by the throat, feeds us every grotesque and perverse aspect of humanity that we try to avoid hearing about but can’t enough of, and sends us on our merry way knowing we’ll eventually be back for another fill. I felt sneered at, I felt naked, I felt despair; a hand grabbing me by the hair and making me watch no matter how hard I wanted to look away (and tried to). And let me tell you I was impressed. Horror has never left me with such a sense of hopelessness, that nihilistic pit that nothing in the world is good, since reading Tales From The Crypt when I was nine.
“There is a character in the last story who has a speech about Eidolon as a whole that I could not possibly outdo. Let this review simply be a recommendation to strip yourself to the core, and look at everything we as a species are capable of, and what happens when something stronger than us wants to gorge on the fruits of our suffering. But don’t feel too afraid—you’re one of the lucky ones. You actually get to leave in the end. I could think of a couple characters that would kill to take your place.”
— Alex Fraser, Goodreads