Red X by David Demchuk

Review by Patrick ❌ McDonough

Some books come out of nowhere and hit you in all the right ways. I enjoy the story for what it is and usually pick up a few tricks to add to my own writing. Then there’s that other type of book, the one that finds a special place in your heart. These stories change you not only as a writer, but as a person. They make you think about storytelling in a completely new way. I have experienced that three times since I started reviewing books in 2019. Those books are Koko by Peter Straub, Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk, and Red X by David Demchuk.

What is it about Red X that lands on that oh-so-special spot in my heart? Let’s start with the cover. It is specifically designed to make the colors stick out, distinguishing itself from the surrounding books. Then, there’s the deckled pages—unevenly-cut pages–that remind me of well-preserved books of yesteryear.

The architecture, the techniques of tackling this story, the subject matter, the scenes that cover incredibly graphic deaths, and the metafiction are a few facets of what makes this book stand out. Metafiction can pull the reader out of the story easily if not executed well. But, not here. The architecture itself, be it the physical or e-book when you see the damaged page OR the audio version when the distortion and re-run section literally pull the reader/listener in to play with your senses as if you were in the actual story of Red X itself. This isn’t an easy read, but it’s one that any and all horror–hell, any READER–should dive into.
Then there’s the graphic scenes. They’re scattered throughout, but when they’re there, they hit like a fucking mack truck squishing you like a bug on the windshield.

I connected with Red X on a level that I very rarely connect with stories. That is not to say all the books I’ve read aren’t good, most books I read are fantastic, but, like friends, you only have a few that you bond with so strongly that it’s almost hard to describe. I hope that many of you connect with Red X like that too.

Red X tackles the queer community during the aids crisis, for part of it, and if anything, for those that do not identify in the LGBTQ community, it can do what great books do, bridge hearts and help us understand each other.

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