Gregory Bryce is a typical college student in the 1980s, dealing with school, his roommate, and his impending apotheosis. Wait, what? That’s right. Gregory has been receiving correspondence from someone known as the Hierophant claiming knowledge that Gregory’s destiny is to become the new God, rising up to usurp the old and weakened Christian God and take control of creation. You know: Typical college hijinks.
In Nicole Cushing’s I Am the New God this is exactly what we get. Slowly, things are revealed about Gregory’s background, such as his stint in a mental institution, that he’s been on medication, and that he’s recently stopped taking that medication. Gregory at first does not believe the Hierophant, but slowly begins to warm up to the idea as he begin to complete the seven tasks the Hierophant has laid out for him to complete his rise to become the new God. But the question becomes whether this is real or if this is all part of Gregory’s (and the Hierophant’s) madness.
That’s what was so fascinating about it. The reader is genuinely left in the dark through most of the book about whether this is real or if we are simply reading the mind of a certifiable madman. From the violent mutilation of his roommate to his creation of a new life form named Hop Frog (clearly a tribute to W.H. Pugmire), we don’t know what’s real and what’s not, especially given that it’s written mostly from a shifting first person perspective. It becomes both fascinating and disturbing to see into the mind of the potentially insane.
The book is still a horror novel and there are many incidents of violence and gore, so reader be warned. Admittedly, the gory violence is not as much as it could have been, and Cushing seems to have exercised some restraint in order to put a greater focus on the story. In fact, I can’t say that any of it is gratuitous. All the violence, while creepy and horrifying, actually serves a point and furthers the plot. Like a slaughtered buffalo, nothing is wasted. The text has a good flow and the story ramps up to the ending at a pretty smooth pace.
If I have a criticism, it would be the changing perspective. While it can be interesting switching first person narratives between Gregory and the Hierophant, as well as the third person perspective of police investigators, at the same time the effect is also jarring and can pull the reader out of the book with the sudden shift. I respect Cushing for this bold choice, but I don’t think that it quite had the effect she was looking for.
A sublime piece of horror fiction, I Am the New God is definitely worth a read. With only minor quibbles, I can heartily recommend this book, especially for horror fans for a unique take that leaves the reader guessing until the end, even if they think they’ve figured it out.
I Am the New God by Nicole Cushing earns 4.5 completed tasks out of 5 (because, really, who’s got the time for 7 tasks).
Note: This review is based on a review copy sent for free from the publisher through NetGalley. This did not affect the content of the review in any way.