There has been a substantial amount of ink spilled over the American Civil War. There have been brilliant graphic novels and novels written, non-fiction and fiction, as scholars and writers all try to comprehend the idea that brothers took up arms against one another, that our young country was ever in such turmoil.
What I’ve enjoyed are the alternate histories – what could have happened. Mixed with a dose of speculative fiction – as with Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South – it’s a chance to stretch your imagination and think about different outcomes, different ideologies that could have emerged.
And sometimes, you just want the living hell scared out of you. That’s where Edward M. Erdelac’s Andersonville comes in.
If you’re not familiar with the prison camp at Andersonville, understand that this is a horror story enough on its own. One of the largest Confederate prison camps, over 45,000 Union soldiers were held and forced to live and work in unconscionable conditions. Almost 13,000 of these men died in the 14 months of Andersonville’s existence, and survivors were left with physical and mental scars.
Now, put that prison camp on the mouth of Hell, and you’ve got the story.
Barclay Lourdes – a Black Union soldier – enters Andersonville as a prisoner, but his presence there is very calculated. Things are going on at Andersonville, and Barclay is there to find out what’s going on. He experiences the full brutality of the camp, from the prisoners known as The Raiders, who prey on the other captives; the sadistic Sergeant Turner, who carries a bullwhip with him; and the cold autocrat, Captain Wirz. Barclay has secrets that he needs to keep in order to survive, but as he discovers more about the camp, he knows he has to risk contacting someone on the other side of the fence.
Erdelac certainly has enough material to work with by setting his novel in Andersonville: the camp itself is a living example of the seven deadly sins and the human misery they feed on. It’s the perfect location for demons to move among humans, feeding off the wretched masses and the festering dead. There are wonderfully woven layers of subplot and twists here, and solid character development.
Be warned, this is not stuff for the faint of heart. Just establishing Andersonville prison camp as a character – because it’s so much more than a setting – is deeply upsetting, because this happened. This happened here. Erdelac sugarcoats nothing in his descriptions of pestilence, death, and filth – the story progression is almost a relief, because you can reconcile in your mind the fiction vs. fact. Tell yourself, “it’s only a movie” where you can.
I loved this book and think horror fans are in for a treat. It will only be available as an ebook, but it’s absolutely worth the download.
Author: Edward M. Erdelac
Publisher: Random House/Hydra
Release Date: August 18th, 2015
Pre-order today from Amazon.com