Ellie is in a loveless marriage and a loveless life. She believes she is a lesbian but her strict religious upbringing and her stifling marriage has blocked any attempts to explore these feelings. A yearning to explore her desires and an overwhelming hopelessness which sparks an urge to die leads her to a secret internet group that pairs partners for suicide. Lori, who Ellie sees as a kindred spirit, convinces her to leave her husband and come to her for a final night of sex and death. What Ellie does not know is that Lori has ulterior motives having to do with cheating God (or is it the Devil?) who she believes is the father of her child.
Nicole Cushing writes bizarre erotic horror that is not for everyone. There is a darkness in her stories that is generously laced with sexual kink, body horror, and a deeply repressive nihilism. Her writing is also quite beautiful. In The Sadist’s Bible, we are thrown head-on into Ellie’s ennui. “She dressed without fanfare. She dreamed without fanfare. It seemed the only way to live.” So when Ellie is given a way out, no matter how destructive it may seem to us, we feel her anticipation and doubt even though we know she is headed into a nightmare. Lori is more of an enigma to the reader; she is deceitful and crazy but perhaps not delusional. As Ellie gets closer to her date with suicide, we discover more about the forces that are involved. It becomes a bleak and scary downhill ride, and the author doesn’t pull any punches. There is an exquisite balance of terror, repulsion and beauty in her descriptions. I am not always sure I liked what I read but the amazing prose kept me there.
And that is the dilemma for me: The Sadist’s Bible is beautiful but at the same time is unpleasant and immensely disturbing. But it is the kind of disturbing that keeps you thinking about it long after you turned the last page; there is an almost Dante-esque quality in Ellie’s journey into her personal hell. It is hard to say if there is a definitive theme here but I would say it is about humankind’s battle between a mundane existence and a yearning for the forbidden and visceral excitement that often results in destruction. Ellie would prefer death over monotony even if that “death” leads to an existence more terrible than life. Or maybe, because it does.
Whatever the meaning you get out of The Sadist’s Bible, the power of the writing is unmistakable. You may find yourself cringing at some parts, yet this is the type of hardcore horror novel that will reward the brave. I think you will understand me when I say I may not have liked it but I still loved it. It is a book worth experiencing.
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