By: Jay Kay
“Vicki Beautiful”-Review & Insight with Author Somer Canon
“A lot of this was personal. I took from a lot of experiences. Something that always stayed with me is how little we do with our loved ones. We expect someone else to handle the details.” – Somer Canon
Dreams are powerful visions of our emotions, fears, beliefs, goals and fantasies. When we dream, many sift through our mind like sand returning to an endless beach. Very rarely do we have a dream that sticks with us, inspires us and twists the way we think about our life and mortality. For Somer Canon, it all began with a lasting and morbid dream surrounding a dinner party and the realization that the host turned out to be a macabre yet beautiful entree on her plate. Chilling isn’t it? Canon’s dream helped to spark the idea for what would be “Vicki Beautiful”. “It stayed with me for days. I sat down finally one day and wrote Vicki’s letter to her friends.” That letter as well as suffering from insomnia and crazy dreams for quite a while help to craft and cultivate the idea. Canon discussed this during her appearance on “The Horror Happens Radio Show” about her mindset for her debut novel this past April. This was also one of the last books published through the now defunct “Samhain Publishing”.
That dream, the influences of Canon’s friends, family as well as personal experiences helped her not only form story but also the six main characters who would play out this awful near impossible tale. This streamlined and vivid story begins with a trio of couples over a weekend dinner party hosted by Vicki and her husband Ken. Drawing form her real life best friends, the couples include Brynn and her husband Chad along with Sasha and her husband Michael. Told through the first person perspective by Sasha, Canon bares the weight of her best friends wishes. “Sasha was always going to be the one to carry this out and be the voice. My feet are most firmly planted in her shoes,” Canon said about Sasha.
Seeming like the typical Vicki dinner party of perfection, friendship, love and unknown to them… farewells, Canon talked about the party and the impact of it on the reader. “I wanted it (Vicki’s party) to be a surprise to everyone. There have to be a lot of strong emotions that you have to be hit with and given quickly.” From the start, you realize that through each act of this “Vicki Beautiful”, the characters are the main focus. Each one through action, emotion and decisions carry the story into areas that shock, surprise and make the reader pull back and think. Canon continues to be very surprised by the reactions she has gotten from the book to date and how people see her work. “Vicki Beautiful” at the center, is a story is about guilt, loyalty, true friendship and (like great horror storytelling), what would you do if you were put into that situation for the ones you love?!
One of the strongest aspects in Canon’s writing is the detail from almost moment one that flows throughout the book to the bitter end. It is very much sensory detail not unlike what food is for us, it triggers something. “Details make you stay. For me, you have to see it in your mind,” said Canon who presented a world of perfection yet according to her alien to the group at the same time. This marriage of description not only came from the characters but the aspect that everyone and everything had a certain distinctive perfection to it that never seem to seep into anything else. Examples such as the flawless aspect of each meal of incredible food. The lush and spotless home and property as well as the incredible children of Vicki and Ken. This specific level of detail, was a part of everything Vicki touched including her physical alteration as the years grew. Even her spouse Ken who not only worships Vicki but offers a life free of any worry or financial burden, the perfect life. For Sasha and Brynn as well as their partners, they have a less shiny detail about them but have a very distinctive touch in the description on every level. That is something that some authors sometimes forget in horror. No matter the platform or project, horror maybe be visual but it has to fit each element. In “Vicki Beautiful” through everyone moment and action, it fits.
One of the crucial times in the book and really the trigger point for the events to follow over the majority of the book is the return of Vicki’s cancer that we all find out at the dinner party is terminal. Once it is revealed by Vicki, I envisioned a golden egg that was shiny and lovely on the surface but truly rotten and fragile. What is more powerful and heartbreaking then sharing the tragic and lethal reality of cancer with the people close to you? Canon does not sit back and figure all will feel the same within the group which for a first time author may be an easy way to work through a powerful point in the book. No, each member of the group handles their friend’s terrible news in a distinctive way that will dictate their decision making through the rest of the events of the novel. Canon emphasizes that Vicki is a narcissist and her friends still love her even with that huge flaw. This aspect of love, acceptance and the coping from her news that night sets up the next act of the book. Waking next morning, they realize that Vicki has disappeared to a local hotel committing suicide and cutting the time short before the real horror of cancer has destroyed her completely. The idea and feel of Vicki’s suicide was influenced by personal events in her life. One shock on top of another with more to come, the brilliance in this book.
The brilliance continues as you sit back and wonder why this was done? What pain was Vicki going through to stay perfect? What is next for everyone involved? How would you deal with this horrible turn of events? This solution comes quickly as Ken reveals that Vicki has left letters and final requests for the group that presents the ultimate reason for her invitation. With each letter presented, the true motive and disturbing overall idea is revealed to the reader. The idea that came from Canon’s dream, that Vicki even in death, still wants to be perfect, prepared, remembered and consumed by her friends! Yeah, elegant cannibalism… part of the dark and twisted humor! This opens the door to the next act of “Vicki Beautiful” where we learn what true friendship is. The limits of loyalty, love and insanity is between friends, loved ones and our partners. Each moment that goes by, takes the reader deeper into reality of what we would do as well as do what we never thought we could do. The idea of also of what responsibilities we put on others when we pass away and the disconnect that normally plays into it as well as how we cope with that loss and the memory of those we love.
Writing a review like this is very difficult. You want to give so much away to entice (wet their appetite) and hook the readers of this review. I’m sorry but I cannot but I will say beyond the fact it is a short read, the story twists your guts and makes you question a lot in the most extreme and unthinkable ways. I will say proudly though, Canon has such a twisted and bright future ahead with this being her first novel. One of the truly great revelations of the last decade for authors like Canon is that more indie and micro publishing houses give chances to authors like her who understand the personal connection to the material as well as the insanity of the horror. On every level, this book is a blueprint for newer writers who want to make a story as streamlined and flows. To cultivate connecting characters who are not useless but show a real side and real conflict. Incredible detail and description that is never wasted but used as tool to immerse the reader in the book. She also is not afraid to use what she knows as macabre guide for the story. She knows her family and her closest friends. She understands the power of appearance, materialism and money. She has a handle on her own life, beliefs and mortality. Each word you read, each thought that is expressed as well as each insane idea that grows from Vicki’s final wishes is never fuzzy in the story no matter how it executed, questioned or completed. She asks what would you do if you were in any of these character’s positions of the insane and morbid? “Vicki Beautiful” is an acquired taste which I hope readers outside of horror will dig into this tasty trick and treat!
Jay Kay – “Rondo Nominated” Horror Journalist & Radio Show Host
“The Horror Happens Radio Show” at http://Horrorhappens.com