Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin' John Hastur. The mysterious blues man's dark, driving music - broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station - is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur's trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he'll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell... In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.
I wasn't sure at first how much I was going to like Southern Gods. It started out with a great, atmospheric prologue which should have been a good thing, but prologues always send off warning signals to me that the book is going to need a lot of help hooking me. Then, as I expected, it had a slow start. I didn't have a lot of confidence that the book was going to be extraordinary, but I was wrong. Really wrong.
I loved Southern Gods.
In the end, the build up became one of my favorite things about Southern Gods. It was like a huge crescendo. It started out small and just got bigger and better until it was downright awesome. I even grew to love the prologue which is rare for me.
There are two separate story lines going on in the first half of Southern Gods. In one, Bull Ingram is hired to find a missing person, and he gets tangled up in an investigation of a really creepy blues man and a radio station that changes frequencies and plays the devil's music. In the other, Sarah and her daughter have returned to her family's home where Sarah discovers there are evils she never knew existed. Once these two story lines converge, Southern Gods moves from creepy to scary to terrifying. I'm glad I wasn't reading it in public because you could visibly see the horror on my face.
If you love a well developed horror story, you will love Southern Gods. It was so unique and so surprising. I am now a big fan of John Hornor Jacobs. I cannot wait to get my hands on his next book.
9/10: Highly Recommended
There are a lot of Lovecraft references in Southern Gods. I think it might finally be time for me to start reading Lovecraft. Over the years, I've learned to spot most anything Lovecraftian, but I have yet to experience where it all originated. Are you a fan of Lovecraft? Let me hear from you!