BOOK REVIEW: Fifty Shades Of Hell
Written by Tim Miller
Published by Tim Miller
Fifty Shades of Hell (originally Dead Girl) by Tim Miller is a self-proclaimed “extreme horror” story, and I’ll admit that I was intrigued. I’m not averse to extreme horror and had heard good things from other people about this author so I dove in, excited for a terrifying ride.
Things started out pretty rocky, with fantastically expositional writing, but I thought perhaps after the first chapter or two the story would find its legs. My mistake was assuming there was a story. Fifty Shades of Hell is more like a series of pieces depicting badly written porn and torture.
What plot there is revolves around the ghost of a woman who lives in the attic of the “murder house.” While alive she pursued acceptance into a vaguely defined and secretive group, the “Clerics of Dolor,” and took pleasure in sado-masochistic acts that ultimately led to her death. Once dead she haunts the attic, waiting for men to stumble upon her. When a young married couple moves in, she tempts the husband into murdering a hooker with her wily sexual ways, then leads him into another dimension of sex and pain. Apparently, she holds a power over men that can drive them to kill, just to fuck her.
There’s no nuance and zero character development to this story, and the loose plot I just described is all there is to it. This novella feels almost like an outline for an actual book.
For instance, one would expect the decision to kill another person to be a good time for the author to truly explore a character. To get into their internal motivations and back-story. To create a dramatic push and pull, leading the reader around in circles, unsure if the hooker would actually be killed or not. It’s a perfect time to ramp up the energy of the story and, if the character does end up killing the hooker, a perfect time to punch the reader in the gut with it.
That would be a different story though. Fifty Shades of Hell is no onion of character development and plot for the reader to peel back, one layer at a time. Things seem to happen in this book with little thought by the characters, and the author rushes through, trying to get to the next sex and/or torture scene quickly. There’s no subtext or deeper understanding to be gleaned from the words. This is a story about the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment through sexual pleasure and pain, but it’s no Clive Barker. It’s completely devoid of any kind of intricacy, so much so that it was like reading a glass of water.
The graphic nature of the content is the only reason I can see people reading this book. I’m sure there’s an audience for such gems as a double socket skull-fuck and gut fucking, but unless those gems are solidly written plot devices within an amazing story about characters I care about, they’re not for me.
And let me be clear… it’s not the explicit nature of the scenes that bothered me; it’s the writing.
Here’s a for instance for you: Say you’ve been raped—violated in unimaginable ways—and literally had the skin and muscle ripped from your body with a belt sander, including your face and genitals. I’d expect you to be writhing in pain, crying, praying for death, and reconsidering the choices that put you in that position. Your looks, most likely, wouldn’t even be on your mind, beyond the fact you were missing your face. You certainly wouldn’t be worried about whether your spouse would find you attractive any longer—however, this is exactly the kind of stellar writing found in Fifty Shades of Hell.
In another scene, and this is indicative of the rest of the book, hooks drop from the ceiling and impale the main character through the wrists, preventing him from escaping an impending gang-rape by several other men. This horrific set-up is a good time for the author to viscerally describe the pain and fear the character is experiencing in a way that makes the reader cringe. Instead, what we get is “Ow! Fuck, what is this?” and “I’m not a homophobe or anything at all. But I’m straight. I only like girls.” While I can applaud Miller for the equal opportunity gang-bang, I couldn’t help but do a mental face palm during this and nearly every other scene.
If you’re looking for a read where the characters and plot don’t get in the way of non-stop sexual violence and gore, this book is for you. If you’re like me and prefer your extreme horror to be encompassed in a well-written story, you should look elsewhere. Two Stars.
I wrote and published this review originally for Dread Central. See the original post here.