The Venus Complex Review

by Chris Conway


When I first joined the staff of HNN, I expressed my desire to regularly review horror novels.  I have found this to be a generally overlooked genre and felt it would be a unique area for the site to cover.

At a recent staff meeting, my wish came true.  I was offered the book The Venus Complex written by “the chick who played the female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II,” for consideration.

“Not THE chick who played the female Cenobite in Hellrasier II – the great literary powerhouse and woman of letters -Barbie Wilde!  Be still my Hellbound Heart!” I thought. “Can it be true?”

After wiping the smug look off my face, I took the book, gave it a quick glance and agreed to give it a shot.

Once I got home, I assessed the state of my sock drawer and finding it to be in tip-top shape, I started reading The Venus Complex.  After about 10 minutes, I realized two very important things: 1) The “Chick” can write and 2) I was…am a self-important, arrogant, judgmental asshole!

I was immediately drawn into the tale of Art History professor Michael Friday who, in a split second, decides to seize the opportunity of a car accident as the means to cover up the murder of his wife.   This solitary act releases the beast that is Michael’s sexual perversions, nihilist thoughts and uncontrollable blood lust.  Using ‘by the hour’ motel beds as his canvas and randomly picked women as his muses, he embarks on his murderous journey to gain the attention of Elene, a Psychology professor and police serial killer consultant with whom he has become utterly obsessed.

Ms. Wilde masterfully drives the narrative via Michael’s first person journal entries. His voice is “real”- his drive, anger and meticulous calculations come through in a very genuine sense.  Additionally, Wilde’s familiarity with visual story telling is demonstrated well both in her graphic description of Michael’s acts as well as structural pacing.  Some of Michaels’s entries are merely 3 or 4 lines, while others go on for several pages.  This allows Wilde to control the rhythm of the work in an almost cinematic manner. On the few occasions I could break myself from reading, I constantly needed to remind myself that the book was written by a woman. As only a skilled actress can do, Wilde seems to “become” her creation.  Michael’s rants, twisted sexual fantasies and opinions on the state of just about everything sound very genuine in their over-educated, angry, upper-middle class male delivery.

My only negative criticism of the writing comes in some awkward use of vernacular.  Wilde, who was born in Canada and has spent most of her professional career in the UK, allows her “accent” to come through in her writing.  Using the phrase “in hospital” or words like “trainers” instead of the US equivalent “sneakers” are just a few examples. This was a minor distraction, as the work takes place in upstate NY with an American narrator.

While comparing The Venus Complex to Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho seems to on the surface to be the easy road for a reviewer to take, the books are common only in a superficial way.  Ellis’s Patrick Bateman is at odds with the banality of the post-modern, yuppie, consumerist condition, where as Wilde’s Michael Friday battles his inner demons, which are fueled by his utter contempt for the unsympathetic world where he is forced to exist.

The Venus Complex is a deftly plotted and calculated work of terror.  Like the painted masterworks Michael Friday draws from to inspire his blood-fest, each verbal brushstroke falls on the page at the precise spot Barbie Wilde wants it.

Hopefully by writing this positive review of The Venus Complex I have won some anti-asshole points.  More importantly, my wish is that the “chick who played the Cenobite in Hellrasier II,” or as she should be know Barbie Wilde to all, will see it in her Hellbound Heart not make this now humbled, lowly book critic the subject of her next work of art! 

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