Shiloh by Philip Fracassi
Lovecraft eZine Press, 2018
I was first introduced to Philip Fracassi listening to him as a guest on the Lovecraft eZine Podcast. The episode I’m thinking of is the one where they discussed his collection, Behold The Void, published by Journalstone in 2017. I soon after read the collection and was completely blown away by Fracassi’s story telling abilities. One thing that stood out most for me, other than how well Fracassi writes character along with the beauty of his prose, was how well he can build tension and hold it until the correct moment where the climax takes hold and the emotional release leaves you exhausted and feeling as though you’ve experienced a psychic beating.
Writers like this make me nervous. I have difficulty dealing with high tension in stories. They make me feel anxious. Lately I’ve been reading The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, for example, and I’ve been taking my sweet time finishing because of my silly anxiety issues. That book is intense! I need to take time away from that book in order to finish it.
I digress, but have no doubt that Fracassi is in the same league. His stories torture the reader with worry and anxious emotions. Shiloh is no different
Shiloh begins where it should. It’s a war story dealing with the American Civil War battle that took place in Hardin County, Tennessee on April 6th and 7th in 1862. With 23,746 casualties, it was one of the deadliest battles of the war, and Fracassi takes us right into the middle of it.
The story follows twin brothers Henry and William, infantry soldiers in the Confederate Army. It does not take long for the reader to become plunged right into the thick of battle and its vicious, mindless acts of brutal violence. The battle itself devolves into a scene straight out of Hell itself, a battle field possessed by demons and angels, and a terrible green glow shining out of the wounds of the dying.
I’ll stop there, because Shiloh does what great war fiction always do: short on story, heavy on theme. The theme, of course, is how animal and inhumane war is. And yet, people want it. The characters in this book all want to kill, and they do so gloriously. But why? Why are we this way? As a race of intelligent beasts, we need to get past this in order to evolve and survive.
But we don’t.
And where this novella goes with this idea in mind is not only weird and strange and horrific, it’s fitting.
I have a love of war fiction mainly because war, and how kids act during war, is utterly alien in it’s violence. It’s like giving children a licence to kill each other and then observing the madness that ensues. Shiloh does this very well, and there are some scenes within that are permanently scared into my brain.
So if war fiction is your cup of tea, I highly recommend Shiloh. And I praise it as a fantastic piece that aught to go down as one of the best. Five stars!