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Division X

by August Hill

Rating: ****

Life isn’t great for twenty-four-year-old, Randi Matheson, but it’s about to get a whole worse when her relatives are murdered during dinner by a supernatural beast that bites Randi. During the next full moon, Randi transforms into one of the monsters, nearly killing the remaining members of her family.

When she becomes herself again, she is in the employ of “Division X” a secret company that deals with paranormal threats. The Boss of Division X gives Randi an ultimatum; be their new weapon in the fight against the supernatural or be dissected…

Division X capably throws pretty much every element of a horror thriller into its narrative, and then some. Werewolves, vampires, ritual killing, nasty pus-filled zombie bugs, parallel reality, the list is fairly extensive and complements a gruesome, visceral plot that veers between a slightly tongue in cheek old school slasher and a cerebral offering that has militaristic and science-fictional overtones.

The novel is underpinned by family drama and dynamics. Given the near-relentless and excellently choreographed action, Hill could have easily swerved building depth into the main characters but he takes time to ensure they evolve credibly within the framework of the story and, therefore, are nicely investable for future installments, especially Mikey.

However, the book belongs to Randi and she carries it well especially when she becomes involved with Division X which sees her switch from being the subject of the novel to its object. She can be frustrating, as can cousin Becca, but contextually, it’s realistic and understandable without overstatement.

From the massacre at the family dinner to Randi’s capture by Division X, the narrative remains fairly linear. However, this changes when Randi wakes up in captivity at the company’s headquarters. The reader is given pockets of sub-plots as Division X uses her in their fight against nasties.

Some of these are more successful than others. Although the vignette involving Alan and Eddie on Halloween has important momentum for further books, it seemed the odd one out and didn’t quite sit as comfortably as the others, such as Randi‘s first outing with Division X to locate some missing teenagers which has a real sinister The Hills have Eyes-Esque feel subtly laced with small, ironic effects.

Hill’s tone and prose shift in line with the action. Overall, Division X is fast-paced, with a confident, driving tempo. However, Hill knows when to adapt this, especially toward the end during the cornfield scenes when the writing takes on a slower, screen-writerly feel which highlights the almost cinematic violence that ensues.

Some of the portrayals within the actual Division X are a touch prototypical but making these lesser characters a little one-dimensional (aside from those that drive the narrative) emphasizes the detached, emotionless nature of the company’s work and the random, odd, and damaged nature of the operatives that carry it out.

Division X is a sprawling thrill ride of a horror novel that showcases Hill’s fertile imagination and skill as a storyteller. An absolutely packed treat for fans of the genre. Highly recommended.

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