Publication Date: October 20, 2012
In [easyazon-link asin=”1480179582″ locale=”us”]The Mortal Religion[/easyazon-link] Chalk Cutter was cruelly nicknamed “Moonface” as a child for his unusual appearance. His parents rejected him; his schoolmates rejected him. People he thought of as friends used him to further their own sadistic fun by playing tricks and mentally torturing him. When young Elizabeth, delivers an insult in a bar by cruelly introducing Chalk to her friend as her boyfriend, “Gavin” and then laughs in front of him at her friend’s expression, Chalk has had enough. He enacts and elaborate plot to kidnap Elizabeth and show her the folly of judging people based on appearance by shining a light on the imperfections of society and their backward way of thinking. When his plan starts to work, Chalk makes contact with a former schoolyard bully whose life Chalk has ruined and boasts to him about his actions thinking the man has already fallen too far. Has he or will pride be Chalk’s ultimate mistake?
It’s been many years since I last read [easyazon-link asin=”B0031U8OEK” locale=”us”]The Collector[/easyazon-link] by John Fowles. I don’t remember the actual story line, but I remember the feeling I had while reading it—mild revulsion, hope for the conclusion, and a fascination with the outlook of the main character. I experienced these same feelings while reading [easyazon-link asin=”1480179582″ locale=”us”]The Mortal Religion[/easyazon-link] by Marc Horn.
There are some people who simply won’t like this novel. It might be because of the harsh victimization of a child depicted or that Chalk walks around in daily life as a responsible and authoritative member of society. There’s fear in the idea of something that could actually be happening around you. Those readers subscribe to the belief that life is hard enough and reading is escapism. Nothing wrong with that way of thinking, but frankly, Chalk wouldn’t want those people reading him. Chalk wants readers who think differently. Readers who see intelligence for what it is and allow nothing to hold them back. He’s is the guy who posts the provocative comment just to laugh as people react. He’s also a bit of a pop culture junkie. I loved the references to the 1980s British show, “Of Fools and Horses”, and Chalk’s using the show to stay calm. Big Brother U.K. is not aired in Canada, so I did miss some of the references to that show but found it interesting that Chalk seemed to use the show as a bit of an anthropological study of humans.
When Chalk kidnaps Elizabeth he’s not looking for revenge, but to change her outlook. He sees society as the narcissist and self-absorbed, and he’s looking to mold a human being who will see beyond his looks and recognize him as a superior mind who has been held back by inferior people. The things he does caused my skin to crawl, but Chalk was a truly fascinating character. He was mostly measured and careful, but no-one-is-perfect and if there’s to be a downfall, he, like most people, will be the engineer of his own.
The interesting thing is that despite the torture he enacts, Chalk does not see himself as a monster. He is making a better human being that he’ll then set forward into the world. One disciple of his philosophy, who sees him as the true genius. Horn gives us quite an interesting back story of torture and revenge via revelation to Elizabeth and recognizes when a mistake is made. He is a new god, in his mind, but not perfect. The twists and turns this story took were fascinating all the way to the end—which I will not spoil in this review. Chalk makes changes but he makes them at a great price. There’s nothing really that I would criticize about the novel except that I would have liked to have seen more of certain elements. This is a well-thought-out work of fiction that comments on the way we look at society and pop culture/general outlooks and their place in the world in general. Horn wastes nothing in the exposition as every bit is needed. We’re able to see Chalk at work and interacting with his subjects in his job as an immigration officer and then, back to the girl tied up in the chair in the basement. The culmination and the end of the novel were extremely well done.
If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, [easyazon-link asin=”1480179582″ locale=”us”]The Mortal Religion[/easyazon-link] is the novel for you. It’s harsh; it will make you think and will certainly cause you to never again mock someone in a pub—if you were ever so inclined. Read an excerpt and pick up The Mortal Religion by Marc Horn today on: