Insanity By Increments (Book Review)
Released: 2015, n/a
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
When we heard that Cvlt Nation scribe and former writer for Metal-Rules.com Alaric Cabiling was conjuring some dark fiction, obviously we were intrigued. Known as Al Necro, he’s developed a good following as an online metal and book reviewer, best loved for his often dark and humourous reviews, but unlike the masses of fan-bloggers on the internet, Cabiling takes his writing very seriously, and with good reason too. Infatuated with idea of becoming a career writer since the age of twelve, he now works freelance, and has after much struggle for perfection, has now released his first published work of fiction.
Insanity By Increments is a title which suggests something extreme, harsh and brutal. Infact, the subject matter here is a little more poised. This is the world of gothic fiction, and despite the writer’s influences from Victorian England, this is also a contemporary piece of work with all stories set in the modern day. Eight years of work has produced nine stories, driven by a love for language and inspired by the obvious greats, Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley. And while this book lacks the shock and tension of any horror novel, it is still not to be read by those afraid of the dark.
Scouring the writer’s obsessions and interests, this is a depressing piece of work. Unlike many contemporary gothic works, which linger onto tired clichés and rely heavily on predictable scenarios, all is seemingly normal at the start of these short stories. The discourse is serene and perfectly ordinary, yet it is with the darkness that all drama unfolds that makes this book interesting.
Despite his fandom, Cabiling does not draw out tension like his 19th century heroes, instead keeping a fast paced narrative, with climatic moments of sadness and despair, before all is moved onto the next story. With such good potential in many of his stories, it is a shame and a wonder that these stories end in often only 20 pages. It feels compressed and possibly overly streamlined, with all atmospheres coming from the raw emotions of the characters rather than any dialogue or descriptive details. Al Necro’s story telling is overly simplified, causing the narrative to run rigidly and meaning that these stories all lack the charisma that gained him so much respect writing as online metal scribe.
Not all these tales are engaging as one another either; themes of families, bonds and relationship are constant, but the proficiency with which they are portrayed is not so regular. With so few words, these stories require much more effort to read than they should do to, and at times it feels like a chore to get through one to possibly enjoy the next novella afterwards. The biblical references in Winter’s Eden feel uninspired, amateurish and predictable, making the tragedy of the story near spoilt, and feeling flat and dry instead.
At least the dark undertone that lingers and creeps constantly throughout the whole book feels very earnest. Perhaps it’s due to Cabiling first-hand experiences with depression, but regardless this book is as tasteful as morbidity comes, taking a close look at the human condition, the world around us and the choices that men and women make. Focusing on anguishing consequences, the despair felt by the characters is blunt yet real, and it is obvious that some of the writer’s own personality has been injected into the plots here.
If you want some gripping modern gothic fiction, there are clearly writers out there with better honed abilities to engage your attention and hold it, even when you are not reading the book itself. Insanity By Increments is unfortunately forgetful, and the attempts to blend Victorian literature style atmosphere with plain English here have failed. The characters feel like blank canvases, even though their personality traits and oddities are well explained, and despite the eight years spent agonizing over every last detail, it feels underdeveloped, suggesting to me that Cabiling has shed the flesh of what were once meaty, rich stories down to the bare bones, and there’s very little left to pick at.
One these 9 tales will suffice for a quick read to pass the time, but unlike short story master, Poe, himself, Cabiling’s stories are all very monotone, seldom surprising, and only at best, sufficiently entertaining.
Review by Jarod Lawley