Brought to you by OBS reviewer Vicki
*Beware of possible Spoilers*
Sometimes it takes a while to get into a new book, especially if the world is a little wonky or the characters are a little hard to love. In most cases readers can determine whether or not they are going to enjoy a book from the first few pages or chapters; I rely heavily upon the opening line or opening scene…
Vlad Vaslyn had me from…
‘Delilah died for the first time on a Wednesday.’
Hook. Line. Sinker.
Brachman’s Underworld is the story of Delilah Brachman’s first death and the ways she attempts to dodge her second (and ultimate) death as an ‘In-Betweener’. In the purgatory-like land of Other Lowell, Delilah is given a ticket for the Tuesday Train; the most ominous and terrifying of judgments offered to the dearly departed and has six days to figure out how to avoid her harsh future. In the midst of all this there are demons, romances, paranormal diseases, gruesome action sequences and bone-chilling horror prose.
It is difficult to compare Brachman’s Underworld to any other book but imagine Beetlejuice and Stephen King had a love child and you’d be close to imagining what is in store for you before reading. I’m not much of a horror reader but Vaslyn kept me engaged by infusing the horror with sarcasm, wit and emotion.
Delilah is a difficult character. A lot of readers will hate her. She is self-righteous, nasty, rude, casually racist, narcissistic and frustrating. At the beginning I was rooting against her and I am not sure I ever got 100% behind her, but readers should stick with her story because although her character development is not fully realized, her character arc is. She has major daddy issues and this is something that is consistent throughout the novel – lending nicely to the pacing. However, Delilah channeled her father as her inner-voice, this sometimes emphasized my understanding of Delilah and sometimes felt a little jarring.
The host of characters involved in Brachman’s Underworld were extremely imaginative and added so much depth to the world that Vaslyn had created. The underworld itself was a mirror image of the town that Delilah lived and died in; Lowell became Other Lowell. Vaslyn’s choice to stage his version of purgatory in a place that very closely resembled Delilah’s living life was very interesting. This symbolism allows the reader to analyze their own thoughts on judgement and who we think has the right to judge the actions of one individual. I think Vaslyn is trying to emphasize that judgement ultimately lies with the self, Lowell becoming Other Lowell is the manifestation of Delilah’s mistakes and regrets.
‘This is your last chance, Delilah, Other Lowell is a provin’ ground, a place to show your true colors.’
Also I love a good word play… Lowell/LowHell.
I would recommend Brachman’s Underworld for readers who like classic horror tropes nuanced with urbanity, religion, realism, humor the grotesque and supernaturalism.