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Santa Muerte Claus by R. J. Benetti (BOOK REVIEW) 1/5

This novel floored me. If it wasn’t for reading it with my wife, I may not have finished it, honestly. I am a constant reader of horror, including grisly classics that do not come with warning labels, and generally my opinion of trigger warnings is that they’re unnecessary. This novel NEEDED a trigger warning, and while the sequel has them, this one does not. I picked this novel up after seeing it in a horror group on Facebook around Christmas time, and I thought it would be a great, grisly Christmas horror story. What it was, was unnecessarily disgusting. I did not expect Splatterpunk, there was no warning adequately describing what I was about to read. Spoiler warning for this review.

The concept is simple enough: A racist, homophobic, piece of shit human being pisses off a man dressed up as Santa Claus. When having Christmas dinner with his family, this man comes for his revenge. Easy, normal horror, right? Well… There are a lot of political messages in this book, from race supremacy to sexuality. The entire family is appalling in their behavior, their opinions, and their speech. It’s a grandiose, overly-exaggerated view of a rich white family. But the portrayal of the Hispanic Santa Muerte Claus is just as exaggerated, with broken, mixed-up speech, and racial slurs from both sides. There’s immediately a lot of strong personalities showing here, while Santa Muerte Claus tells the family they’ve been chosen, and proceeds to slaughter them in horrifically sickening ways befitting who they are. There is a bit of symbolism to the deaths, if you really try to push through and see it. But much of the speech in this novel is so insulting, it takes a lot to look past.

The main character, the one who angered SMC in the first place, got the quick and easy death right away, condemning his family to pay for his actions. The gay character gets an… anal themed death, with many comments about his past actions with men, which pokes fun at his sexuality in a truly unfortunate way. Of the deaths, the women were especially disturbing to me, especially the grandmother (if you’ve read this, you know why).

But the entire story roped around to the children, Thomas and Ellen. Thomas has Down Syndrome, and I felt like his particular portrayal was horrifyingly done. I love that the author wanted to show Down Syndrome, which is rarely showcased in novels, but the way it was done was tactless. The “cute” end came off horribly, after pages of filth. The gore I could have handled, but paired with the sexual content of this novel and I just was left asking, “Why?” There are story elements here but they get lost in the muck of this writing.

I wish I had been told what this book really was. I likely wouldn’t have picked it up at all. I can’t say more without spoiling far too much, but I cannot recommend this to anyone. This is the only book I’ve ever picked up that I wanted to shred into pieces, burn, and forget I ever read it. For people who love graphic splatterpunk, this is right up your alley, but for those who go unwarned, like I did, I say read it with caution, if at all.

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