Book Review: Arachnophilia by Jason Howl

Title: Arachnophilia

Author: Jason Howl

Publisher: Jason Howl

Publication Date: December 20, 2019

Genres: Horror

Shelves: Female-led

Aside from the fact that Joy is a giant spider wearing a human skin, and that there are some grotesque scenes of sucking the life from human victims, Arachnophilia is a story that cannot simply be dismissed as something monstrous and horrific.

What Jason Howl has crafted here is a relationship drama that has a lot to say about self-image, self-esteem, romantic love, and erotic fetish. It is a surprisingly deep and largely melancholy story that makes you think first and feel second. It was so very much not what I expected, not after the gleefully brutal horror of Breeding Season, but something (and I hate to use this word) almost literary in its execution. It’s carefully constructed, weaving in and out of the main narrative to offer observations that add to that overall sense of melancholy dread. There is never any question of how it will end, but instead the question we’re left to ponder throughout the read is why.

The horror aspects are well-done, subtly but imaginatively presented, while the dramatic tension is just about perfectly orchestrated. This is a story in which we can never feel safe, never feel complacent, and can never take anything for granted. What really drives it, though, and what I found so compelling was the whole question of whether you can fetishize someone and still call that love. Sure, the spider-in-human-skin fetish is a rather extreme one, but this could just as easily be about someone who is plus-sized, tattooed, transgender, an amputee, or a costumed furry. Howl explores that same sense of being an outsider, of being shunned and ostracized for coming out as who you are, and then wondering if people only love you for what you are . . . and struggling to separate that from who you are.

In many ways, Arachnophilia is like a Twilight Zone episode, creepy and unsettling and thoughtful and weird, all at the same time, leaving us to ponder our reactions far beyond the page.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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