Zooloo's Book Tours - Birth Rite by Anthony Stevens
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Today's post is a review of the book
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to talk about this horror novel by Anthony Stevens. First let's talk
Birth-Rite by Anthony Steven
Publication Day : 12th July 2021 by Norton Press
Page Count : 400 pages
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Nine-year-old David Ryan is in mortal danger. He has a deadly secret that is unknown even to himself. But there is someone that does know: a relentless killer born of hatred, who draws upon dark powers to destroy God’s chosen ones.
As David grows into a troubled teenager, he has to confront the truth about himself to have any hope of stopping the malignant spread of evil that is engulfing his small town. He must accept his birth-rite, or the whole world will burn.
This was my first introduction to Anthony Steven’s writing and I was very impressed.
The story itself is a familiar tale of good vs evil, The Powers of Light vs The Powers of Darkness etc, etc.
However, I felt that this was the framework that Anthony Stevens hung the story on to bring something much more prescient to the tale of good vs evil.
We initially get the prologue which recounts an ancient text of Uriel, the Archangel coming before God to allow several of his brethren to enter the world of man. However, whilst several of them remained true to the Lord, most of them turned away and instead worshipped the Prince of Hell, Beelzebub, and thus becoming fallen ones.
The story then moves time and setting to the bedroom of a disabled girl who is being kept in abhorrent conditions by her fundamentalist Christian parents in the early part of the 20th Century. Obviously, the girl does not see the way of the Lord as being one that is particularly a nice one to follow and upon being visited by one of the fallen instead turns to the dark side. She is ‘saved’ from her meagre and cruel existence by one of the Fallen and subsequently a child is born, Gabriel Hernshaw.
Gabriel is then brought up by his aunt and his uncle, a reverend in the church, after his mother dies in childbirth. Similarly, Gabriel’s upbringing is not one that you would call a happy childhood, and we follow his descent into evil.
Meanwhile, interlaced with the tale of Gabriel, is the tale of David Ryan, a ten year old boy that is brought up in the early 1970’s with his abusive father, and a catholic mother who misguidedly believes that she must remain in this abusive relationship due to the ‘social and traditional’ rules.
In the first part of the book, the story flits between points of view and different times, highlighting the stories of the three main protagonists; Gabriel, David and a priest named Jean who’s story is an off shoot of his contact with the evil Gabriel in World War Two.
The story isn’t an easy read as it contains themes of abuse, sexual assault, racism, sexism and does use some derogatory language associated with certain time periods. However, I felt that these were not done in an exploitative manner and encapsulated the themes that the author was highlighting.
As I have said, the story moves between these timelines and doesn’t really settle on a linear progression of the story until the final act. Initially, this can seem a little disorientating as there does not seem give the reader that comfort of a lateral progression. However, what it does do is give a good background to the convergence of the storylines in the final act and the reason why things happen they way they do.
Now, I want to go back to my earlier point of the fact that it is a familiar story, but that I felt that this was a formula to hang something much more prescient to the tale. For me, I felt that there was a much deeper aspect of social commentary running underneath this story of good and evil. Horror is a particularly good genre for this, and whilst it can seem that in the surface of the story there is the tale of the fantastical, underneath horror can be used to scrutinise society as a whole, and with Birth Rite, I felt that this was very much at play here.
How many times have you heard the saying that things were better in my day etc, etc. What Birth Rite does is that whilst at times it does give a nostalgic look to the seventies in general, and growing up in a northern town in that period, it also focuses its lens on the not so good aspects of the time period as well.
It highlights the casual racism and violence of the period, the toxic attitudes towards women, and that there was a lack of support for victims of domestic abuse. In this it highlights the fact that really ‘it wasn’t much better in my day’ and these things existed despite what every one says.
In addition to this, it can shine a light up to where are we now in all these things, and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions from that one!
In terms of the book itself, when it comes to the final act of the book, it becomes a typical good vs evil scenario, which I must say that I enjoyed, it was fun.
Now, as I have said, the first part of the story is a little disorientating, and I did tend to wonder where the story is going, but found that it did start to bring the story together in the second part and reached a satisfying conclusion in the final part of the book.
About Anthony Steven
I mainly write horror and paranormal thrillers although I am probably the most squeamish of people when it comes to watching horror movies and normally watch the scary parts through my fingers. Why I write in this genre of fiction is therefore quite ironic, but I’ve always been attracted to horror and thrillers in all their forms, whether on print or large and small screen. I have early memories of secretly watching Appointment With Fear with my older brother on an old black-and- white portable TV on Monday night’s when we should have been asleep. The image of Christopher Lee crashing through French windows in the first Hammer Horror Dracula movie, with blood on his fangs chills me to this day!
Predictably, I am a huge fan of Stephen King, but also love writers such as Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, CJ Tudor and James Herbert. When I was a kid, I was fascinated and enthralled by Robert E Howard’s sword-and-sorcery tales of Conan The Barbarian and several other creations, and then by Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series. These stories really fuelled my imagination and made me want to write my own stuff. When my older brother introduced me to Stephen King, I was soon lost in even darker worlds and I haven’t wanted to come out of them ever since. My books are, therefore, quite disturbing, gory at times, but I try to also litter them with characters who, while flawed, display the finer human qualities such as bravery, loyalty, and above all love of other people above themselves. I hope that you think that I have succeeded in this.
In my normal life I work for a charity that supports blind and partially-sighted people and I am also a qualified psychotherapist. This is all after spending twenty-five years in the private sector, where I wasn’t just unfulfilled, but also monumentally bored. Working with people directly to help them solve their own problems was definitely a better fit for me.I live in Cheshire with my wonderfully patient wife and our small dog, Bailey, who loves nothing better than cuddles, food, and waiting until I’m relaxed of an evening before she demands some attention.