Delirium Books is one of the strongest small press horror publishers and helped introduce readers to authors such as Brian Keene and Weston Ochse. “Host” by Bryan Eytcheson was an important book for Delirium in that it was first released as a limited edition hardcover as the first book in the Delirium X-Series which sold out pre-publication and had collectors searching for copies (“The condemned” by David Jack Bell was also a part of this series) with only fifty copies of the novel first produced. Delirium later released “Host” as a paperback so it could get the wider readership that it deserved.
Aside from its place in Delirium Book’s history, “Host” is a good novel in its own right. Something is growing in pigs. Something that is being chased by several groups for different reasons. It is a mutation caused by chemical waste and abhorrent conditions for raising hogs combined to form a new organism that grows inside of the pigs only to burst out of its exploding head. A young student named Rot is studying it for its potential to cause devastating illness. A drug lord is on its trail for its hallucinogenic properties and a college professor is trying to track it down through the mutated wasps that it spawns.
The story stumbles slightly at times but remains always visceral and interesting. Eytcheson pulls no punches as the characters slowly close in on the source, the host, and the explosive conclusion to their search. A group of militant animal-rights activists gets thrown into the mix as well when they become reluctant allies with the professor (and then even more reluctant victims of the drug cartel). The hits come hard and fast as Eytcheson wraps things up in blood and pain.
This is a horror novel and Eytcheson serves up plenty of blood, gore, and violence to satisfy any horror fan. But there is a second layer to the book that lies below the action and whispers to the back of the readers mind. This small voice makes sure that the reader knows that man created this evil and forces the reader to think about the consequences of mass production of meat and the use of chemicals. This adds an all-to-real undertone to the story that brings the horror home and makes “Host” that much more terrifying.
“Host” is not a great novel by any means but it is still a fine horror novel Eytcheson shows talent in this book, his first novel, and the story is full of shocks and thrills with enough near-gratuitous violence to draw in any reader. There are some fluctuations when the book seems to aspire to become a thriller rather than a horror novel but then this is quickly resolved by more violence. “Host” is not the best book in the Delirium Books catalogue, but it is better than many books out there. Pick up a copy, lock your doors, and prepare to be entertained and terrified. Just do not get mad if you cannot sleep, for this book comes with a warning: may cause nightmares.