Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle is a Targeted Horror

Chuck Tingle is famously (and infamously) identified for self-publishing absurdist erotica that just about all the time skews queer. Despite ridiculous titles like Good-looking Sentient Meals Kilos My Butt And Turns Me Homosexual: Eight Tales Of Sizzling Meals and Not Pounded By Bi Erasure As a result of My Present Hetero-Presenting Relationship Does Not Invalidate My Queerness, Tingle’s work stays steadfastly earnest, which continues along with his newly-written horror story. Camp Damascus is Tingle’s first full-length, historically revealed novel, and it expands on the tongue-in-cheek themes of queerness and survival he first wrote about with 2021’s Straight.

Up within the mountains and nestled within the pastoral forests of Montana, Camp Damascus, the evangelical conversion camp, looms over the city of Neverton. Rose Darling, a younger girl who’s simply getting into self-awareness and womanhood, has by no means been to Camp Damascus, however she is aware of individuals who’ve hung out there. She picks out faces from her church group within the cheerful advertisements that play on the tv. However no person, not even her pals, appear to wish to speak about what occurs at Camp Damascus.

What Tingle does all through this ebook is ready up expectations after which inside the exact same chapter (typically on the identical web page), rips them to shreds, leaving the our bodies bloody and gasping within the wreckage. Camp Damascus is a sometimes-violent, often-thrilling ebook that plunges its whole arm into the open chest cavities of church-blessed corpses, looking round for hearts and squeezing. Throughout the recognizable trauma of spiritual expectation, familial rejection, and assembly somebody on the fallacious time, there may be an underlying supernatural strangeness that feels proper at residence inside Tingle’s absurdist sensibilities. He by no means pushes the envelope of both horror or queerness an excessive amount of, however the premise and execution are fast-paced, creative, and evocative.

As Rose tries to determine why she’s immediately coughing up mayflies, her father tells her that she’s by no means had a bed room door, her mom continues to play judgmental evangelical-themed redemption video games as they stroll by means of neighborhoods, and the church-appointed therapist doesn’t appear to know a lot in any respect. By way of the primary act, the Darling household trades scripture for sentiment as Rose is haunted by a demon who solely appears to seem when she has impure ideas–when she thinks a couple of woman’s snigger or spends just a little too lengthy staring on the fairly stranger sitting on the sphere. When she realizes that a few of her reminiscences are lacking, she breaks into Dr. Smith’s data and finds her identify on the record of youngsters who attended Camp Damascus, Rose turns into obsessive about discovering the reality.

Rose is an extremely compelling narrator who surrounds herself with discovered household and freedom fighters. She is intentionally written as autistic in a manner that feels instantly recognizable and comprehensible, even for folk who usually are not on the spectrum. Her fixed refrains, her curiosity, her obsessions, all of those little hallmarks of her character make her very sympathetic. She is, nevertheless, a comparatively simple protagonist. Whereas she is pulled alongside by the plot (primarily pushed by homophobic persecution, gaslighting, and literal embodiments of evil), there may be little or no grey space to her story. She is an abused, queer autistic woman, and there may be not a lot performed to complicate her good man standing.

Tingle is extremely exact when depicting real-world horrors; using faith as a cudgel for obedience, the emotional manipulation of a household who doesn’t need you to be queer, the wrestle to reconcile the reality of your self with the picture that folks have of you. These scenes resonate in a reader, deftly turning the mundane horrific, and undermining the established order that everybody round Rose appears to attempt for. It’s a incredible sabotage, and permits us to completely assist Rose’s selections to alter, even when there’s a price.

Whereas there are a lot of moments that really feel designed to tug at your heartstrings— particularly in the event you’re queer and have lived expertise that aligns with the type of spiritual abuse and familial gaslighting that this ebook depicts—there may be an underlying restraint to Camp Damascus. It’s intelligent and terrifying, however with Tingle’s earnest dedication to blissful endings, even when there’s a price, Camp Damascus is a really mild type of horror that refuses to let the dangerous guys win in any vital capability. The horror and ache exist right here, however neither push the boundaries of queer horror. It additionally lacks the nimble and frenetic mania of Tingle’s Straight, a novella that was very a lot with out the type of hesitation that conventional publishing might need imposed on Camp Damascus. The ebook is tame and its tooth filed down, if it had any to start with.

The sincerity, nearly saccharine in its ending, can be Camp Damascus’ biggest energy. Tingle has crafted a ebook that’s straightforward to get pleasure from as a result of it’s direct, single-minded, and deeply displays the queer experiences of its writer and principal character. It’s neat and tidy, and by no means what I anticipated from Tingle. Whereas there may be some messiness, I vastly loved the entire ebook and would fortunately advocate the novel.

Camp Damascus exemplifies a horror story with an uncomplicated ethical compass, making it straightforward to devour, and a transparent extension of the positivity and surprise that Tingle himself radiates on-line. Whereas Camp Damascus loses among the bizarre within the course of, it’s a delightfully tingly ebook: simply scary sufficient to be horror, however not so stomach-churning that it might flip individuals off the writing. Turning individuals on is, actually, what its writer does finest.

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle is accessible for purchase now.

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