The Obsidian Psalm by Clayton Snyder

(8.7/10)

I've been turning this book around in my head for over a week, and I don't feel any closer to writing a coherent review than I did after finishing it. It's not that I don't have things to say about it. Quite the opposite. There are things to say, like how the book goes there and twists your stomach like a thrice-damned egg beater, or how it plays with time and space and emotions like a toddler kicking around her Lego collection. But trying to summarize the reading experience into a couple of paragraphs is writing suicide. So bear with me if I jump around a bit.

The story starts off innocuous enough, almost laughably so, baiting you into what appears to be a straightforward narrative about an impossible mission to end a centuries-old war. The first couple of chapters are heavy on the exposition as we follow our coterie of anti-heroes into the mouth of Hell. Then things get unexpectedly stabby. Necrotic weapons are fueled from the life force of slaves, yet centuries of battles and untold deaths yield no gains for either side. Warring gods lead these armies to ruin, so we wonder what is to gain from all this madness? What is the purpose of this grim and tireless march toward ruin?

The book fully descends into a mad cacophony of gods-damned treachery, pride, and deceit that spans millennia. Raw truths are laid bare. Identities merge and are torn asunder. You are dragged, kicking and screaming, through memories of humanity brought to its lowest point. And you feel the wrath of vengeance laid upon those who share in the guilt of what these unholy divinities have brought to our world.

And it gets dark, my friends. Towards the end of the book, there is a reunion tour, of a sort, that contains some scenes of graphic violence that may haunt you. It frays and unsettles, which may accurately portray the tone of this entire story.

Do I recommend it? Hell yes, I do. It’s certainly not a bedtime story for your rugrats… well maybe it is, I won’t judge. It’s like a Gaspar Noe film in book form: uneasy, powerful, perhaps a bit too nonsensical, but something you cannot look away from, and will not forget. (Hard to believe this is the guy who wrote River of Thieves--with a word-for-word crossover chapter, no less--but there you go.)

The Obsidian Psalm immediately places Snyder in an elite group of ‘extreme grimdark’ writers. If that piques your curiosity in the least, or if you’re just looking to shake things up between Curious George books, then look no further. Say one thing for The Obsidian Psalm, say that it's going to leave a mark.

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