Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden: A Horror Book Review

Jan 4, 2024
Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden HORROR BOOK REVIEW .png

Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden

A Horror Book Review by Frank Lee

Writing a book can take years of hard labour. Writers pour their hearts and souls into their stories, and it is painful to know this and still find little to praise in the finished product. It is therefore with reluctance that I admit the only thing I like about Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden is the cover art. The image has all the requisite genre markers and manages to encapsulate the story.

Barden’s novel is about Peter, a man downtrodden at work, lonely but too shy to approach the one colleague he likes romantically. There are hints of a Kafkaesque dystopian workplace In the early chapters, and if these had been developed, I believe this review would have been much more positive. 

Instead, we have two main narratives. The first is the anachronistic doctor and the torturous nineteenth-century treatments he inflicts on his patients; and the second is a murder mystery set in a mountain getaway.

Peter is an emotionally distant protagonist throughout; we do not get the feeling that the murder spree has any impact on his usual state of being—disenfranchised boredom. Even this might have been salvaged by the author if Barden understood the importance of revealing his story through showing, but the scale is firmly tipped on the telling side throughout. Here are a few paragraphs from the novel which give a fair indication of the author’s writing style:

‘”Oh dear,” she said with a quivering voice. “What is happening to me?” She passed out. I was not sure if the condition itself or the mere thought of bleeding from the ears had caused her to pass out.’

‘I slowly inched along, trying to be quiet. When I got closer to him, I discovered a disturbing sight. He was dead!’

‘The man began to stab me repeatedly as I screamed for him to stop. Then I woke up. It was just a dream after all.’

‘We got to the bottom of the ravine and gasped in horror. It was Jill. She was dead.’

‘He saw me and gave me a strange look. This made me feel uneasy. I felt uncomfortable around him.’

‘Logic told me to stay within the safety of my room, but curiosity and boredom told me to leave.’

I read to the end, hoping to find something worthy of praise. Maybe the end will throw everything into a new light, I hoped. Had I not been reviewing this book, it would have been discarded fairly early on—DNF.

The weird doctor, the isolated mountain lodge, the spiders in the basement, the murders—there’s enough here to write three good novels, but I would have been happy if the narrator showed a believable reaction or an emotional response at any point over the 238 pages.

I suspect Barden is at the beginning of his writing journey, and I truly hope that if he reads this, it doesn’t make him give up. The ideas are here; he simply needs to learn how to write a sympathetic character and understand when to show rather than tell. Debuts are rarely the best work an author will produce, and I look forward to writing a rave review about his next novel. In the meantime, kudos to the unnamed cover artist.

Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden: A Horror Book Review

Mouthful of Spiders by Jason R. Barden

Peter Lane is a peculiar awkward man. He suffers from constant vivid nightmares. The woman of his dreams does not even know he exists, and he only has one true friend. In an attempt to ease his suffering, his doctor prescribes bizarre, unconventional treatments for his mental well-being. But soon, his life will be even more turned upside down. He is invited to a winter retreat at an isolated mountain lodge where he will be forever changed. One by one, the lodge guests are dying in strange, disturbing ways. Who or what is behind these macabre deaths? Can anyone be trusted? Will Peter survive and discover the killer’s identity, or will he end up with a Mouthful of Spiders?

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