Caveat: there is no nepotism at play. I reached out to S.O. because he is a person I want to know more about, and in order to do that I have to read his material. In fact, the first contact I made was a direct message on Instagram showcasing a screenshot of my Amazon receipt for my purchase of Maldito. I joined the IG writing community (an unofficial entity, obviously) in October and have since kept my eyes open for anyone that I could build a rapport with in any community. I have scoured through many people, and once I followed S.O. I realized how many accounts we have in common, that we are in the same game. I’m not exactly a horror writer, but it is my native genre as far as movies go, and I believe that my themes overlap with horror in general. So, if I want to meet my peers, I have to look at horror, where everything seems to intersect.
To be honest, lately I’ve been watching more movies than reading books. This is because the mainstream publishing landscape seems to be saturated by SJW policies that either water-down and turn the project into a pamphlet rather than a creative work, or infringe on harmless trajectories that don’t fall in line with the scruples of modern Orwellian Newspeak. That’s the first thing that stood out to me in Maldito, that Bailey speaks plainly to the audience, the entire work is a blunt force excursion into the next page.
I believe movies are the best conveyor of the horror—and that’s where Maldito comes into play. From the first page, Maldito carries the spirit of a Netflix movie maybe six years ago, when you could find an eighty-minute shot to the face that left your heart pacing and mind reeling—when you could find them in abundance. I bought Maldito and read 40 of 54 pages the night I finally picked it up. Then it took a few weeks until I read the last fifteen pages. This lapse in reading wasn’t a lack of interest—I just didn’t want it to end! I can’t tell you how many books in my library I have read 75% of but haven’t finished out of fear that I won’t find anything to replace the excitement I have for that book. This is what happened with Maldito, except that I managed to finish it while confined in an airplane.
Since the book is so short, it’s hard to really dig into the plot without giving the story away. The summary is available on S.O.’s Amazon page, linked below. This review is purely reactionary. But I will say that every turn felt natural, and I did not expect the double twist at the end. The story wasn’t completely stark, which left a glimmer of hope for a happy ending. I can’t say how, but, although cathartic, the ending was not happy at all in the slightest for the characters of the story, but left a satisfying aftertaste in the mind of the reader with the final turns of Bailey’s knife.
Though I do not endeavor to become a book reviewer, the following is the breakdown I will follow I do review books (which I predict will remain in indie territory), and I’m happy to roll it out for Maldito:
Tone: The tone of the writing matched the environment of each scene. From the beginning, when the starring couple is at the tropical resort, each environment felt natural. As the story veered further off the beaten path, pardon the pun, so did the sense of comfort expressed in the writing. For the short span, this evolution in tension is very important.
Voice: As stated above, Bailey writes plainly to the audience, using the action of the plot and the horrors the characters experience rather than relying on poetic language. This directness works well for Bailey, who writes just enough to get all the necessary plot points in place, when he then seals them with confidence.
Plot and Pacing: Something that many writers struggle with is alternating backstory with the present stream of action. Bailey does not have that problem at all in this book. He always finds the best places to briefly drop expository elements that only strengthen the audience’s connection with the awful conflict.
Characters: Like many great horror stories, Maldito stars a couple on vacation. Bailey is honest about his characters and uses their weaknesses to enhance the peril they face. The marriage of the leading couple expresses an increasingly common dynamic in American culture, where the wife is the senior money earner while the husband reaches for his aspirations. In this case, the husband is an aspiring writer and the wife is a successful saleswoman. Over the course of the story, circumstance challenges the man’s masculinity, and Bailey does this fearlessly.
Thank you for reading my review of Maldito by S.O. Bailey. Though this is a book review of Bailey, it is also clearly an awesome vehicle to move my blog forward. My stints of opportunism tend to benefit the subject of my gaze, and I also want to be open about it. As this blog unfolds, I will be featuring other creatives to give my own testimony as to their development. You can always expect me to cast a burning spotlight on my peers and those I respect.This is a heavy review for 54 pages, but it’s also indicative of Bailey’s future as a writer, which is bloody and bright, regardless of how abysmal his imagination may be.
From the other side of strange,