Karen Runge is a dark fiction diamond. Her short stories have graced some of my favourite anthologies and quite often have been among my favourite stories in these anthologies. I’ve been intrigued and very keen to read this, her debut novel, ever since I heard about it late last year.
Seeing Double is Karen’s 50 Shades of seriously dark shit! It is a novel that at times can be quite intimidating to the reader. Intimidating in the way the books sexually charged characters cavort with each other with such reckless abandon, exploring the fathomless depths of their perversities and desires through scenes of graphic sex and sometimes abuse. The opening page sets the scene for a novel that is unflinching in its delivery and Seeing Double bristles with sexual tension throughout. If you ever watched David Cronenberg’s movie Crash and enjoyed it then this could well be the book for you.
I’m not sure readers will become emotionally attached to the characters in Seeing Double, it isn’t that sort of book, but there is little doubt in this readers mind that Ms Runge is a good enough writer for you to continue your investment down the depraved paths on which they travel. Neven, Daniel and Ada are carved from stone, jagged people, hard people, people with few feelings. Here we have three characters that seek only lust and control. At its dark heart, Seeing Double is a psychological horror story about relationships and how these relationships twist and turn, shift and shape damaged people into monsters through a combination of unhealthy desires and the constant want for the thrills of the flesh. During the book, things gradually spiral slowly out of control as our trio seek more sadistic ways to arouse themselves. Their initial confidence in their frequent rituals slowly diminishes leaving them psychologically damaged, bruised and battered. There is an added supernatural element simmering in the background, and this comes to the fore by the books end. Seeing Double is a book in which the final few pages will perhaps leave you with more questions than answers.
This is a brutal novel filled with dark vivid imagery that only those with the strongest of stomachs will be able to take. Approach with caution, and be prepared to leave all of your preconceived notions at the door. I’m honestly not sure how people will react to this story. I think it will be a love/hate book for many due to its in-your-face graphic nature, but it will get people talking. In fact, I’ve already had numerous conversations with people regarding its content and the books ending. People already familiar with Karen’s work should have an idea about what sort of story lies in wait for them.
For this reader, the discomfort of the experience and the twisted nature and originality of the story mean it’s a winner. After all, horror should take the reader out of their comfort zone and this book certainly does that. Seeing Double is a fine debut novel. It isn’t perfect, but there is a raw, passionate and combustible energy to Karen’s storytelling that kept me engaged right up to the end. I am excited (and slightly concerned *winks*) as to what depths Karen’s imagination will plunge to next.
4/5 purple bruises from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.