“There are those who bow to darkness. And there are others to whom darkness bows.” In 2060 Caleb Rogers and his partner Tom Marvin put away one of the most dangerous serial killers Texas has ever known: Craig Smiley, an ex-infantry mental patient who believes he can summon seven gods through a series of disturbing rituals. Caleb and Tom secured him a life sentence in Mars's toughest prison. They thought the whole thing was finished. But when Smiley escapes the prison seven years later and sets out once again on his insane mission, Caleb and Tom are sent to Mars to track him down. Both cop and criminal are determined to finish what they started. Only the criminal will stop at nothing. Gods of the Black Gate is part thriller, part supernatural horror, part sci-fi blockbuster and at its heart: a journey of spiritual descent.
Joseph Sale writes dark fantasy and epic poetry. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his epic series The Book of Thrice Dead and his dark fantasy trilogy The Illuminad He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.
He edits non-fiction and fiction, helping fledgling authors to realise their potential. He has edited some of the best new voices in speculative fiction including Ross Jeffery, Emily Harrison, Christa Wojciechowski, and more. His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.
He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.
Gods of the Black Gate is my first go around with Mr. Sale and color me a fan! Now, from time to time a book comes up for review and I simply skim the synopsis to see if I will enjoy it and have time to fit it into my current reading schedule. The synopsis of this had me both interested but also worried.
Set in the year 2060, notorious serial killer Craig Smiley is imprisoned on Mars, locked away for life. Meanwhile, back on earth, one of the detectives who tracked him down and arrested him, Caleb Rogers, struggles with what he has heard from Smiley during all of their interviews.
When Smiley escapes from the prison on Mars, Caleb and his partner Tom (who also helped arrest Craig) are sent back to Mars to track the killer down.
So why was I a bit worried? Mars. I have struck out with a number of Mars novels because they can be typically too-sciencey for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved The Martian, and when done well, science can be fantastic extra pieces of knowledge in some books, but I personally, just haven’t had luck recently with science fiction based books on Mars. Well, this isn’t science fiction friends! This is a true psychological horror tale set on the red planet.
Sale does a great job at crafting a cosmic tale filled with fantastic historical and literary references throughout.
When I was reading this, I actually messaged a few friends to tell them I had just read one of the most original death scenes in some time. You see, Craig Smiley has to appease the Dark God to open the Black Gate, at which time, apparently, earth and humanity will be saved from itself. So while on earth, Smiley kills seven different women, seven different ways for seven different lesser Gods. Phenomenal.
Caleb and Tom work well together as veteran partners and Smiley is an enjoyable, deplorable evil villain. This book reads so fluidly that even the intermission add-ins of prior interview transcriptions never once work as a detriment. The pacing escalates throughout, finally resulting in a very realistic, but none-the-less gruesome finale.
I’m so glad I took the chance on this book. It easily surpassed all of my expectations and I’m still thinking about some of the finer details thrown in a few days after finishing. Kudo’s to the author for such a solid offering.
A serial killer and the police detective who was obsessed with catching him. A high security prison on Mars. Cosmic horror of the ancient ones variety. What’s not to love in this thriller, science fiction, horror novel? I look forward to reading the next novel, as well as Save Game once again as it has now been transformed in my mind by the events in this novel. Joseph Sale sure knows how to write a great book.
If you liked the TV series True Detective, series 1, with Matthew McConaughey (of course), and/or like Philip K Dick with Total Recall and all that stuff, you will love this book. It's serial killer sci-fi; it has a relentless pace through brilliant plotting and characterisation; and it has that wonderful psychological depth which makes you totally involve with both the hero, Caleb, and the astonishingly resourceful villain, Smiley. I am not a great fiction reader - I was in my youth, but not now. But this is a book it is difficult to put down - like watching a Die Hard film, the action carries you forward and you must know how it ends. On top of all this, there are some absolutely genius scenes in the book: perhaps my favourite is the incredible 'cyclops' moment. I won't spoil your enjoyment by telling you what this is, but this is amazing writing of the highest order. Do get a copy and have a read for yourself. As for me, I finished the book yesterday, but handily volume 2 (of this trilogy) is on my chair, and I shall be starting it later today. Addiction in the lockdown, or what?
A fascinating and heart-thumping read! The story was wonderful. I would've given it five stars except for a few reasons. Each of which, if corrected, could make this an amazing read. First, there were many typos and grammatical errors (e.g. run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation). Second, there were times in the story where the characters made a leap in logic that wasn't possible. Finally-and this is my own personal preference-the whole Earth to Mars and back to Earth was a bit superfluous. Yes, it makes for an interesting storyline, but why doesn't earth have a prison like the one on Mars? Why was Smiley sent to Mars in the first place? Why did Caleb have to do his interviews (when he first caught Smiley) on Mars?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is a wonderfully-paced, action-packed story, which is part crime thriller, part sci-fi and part horror. It is philosophical, but at the same time gritty and down-to-earth, and the events are carefully structured to give them depth and significance in the overall narrative. The villain at the heart of the story is fascinating, and made me think of Hannibal Lecter, Jack the Ripper, and the super-soldier Riddick. Well worth reading for fans of action, dark science fiction, and cosmic horror. Excellent.
Set between Mars and Earth, Gods of the Black Gate offers whole new settings to explore in serial killer/sci-fi fiction hybrids! I loved Sale's handling of Mars, where it felt lived-in but also exotic, dangerous, isolated and cold, all at the same time—like the murderer Craig Smiley himself.
Once transported back to Earth on his escape, Smiley enters the woods—one of my favorite settings in horror. We go from futuristic settings to something ancient & unsettling as he holds his captive there like a regular Buffalo Bill (though he has the mind/vocalisms of Hannibal Lecter himself).
The book's on the shorter side, and for a new Universe of Gods I was yearning for more. Of course, it could be the case that Smiley's just delusional (which I don't mind musing on, I love the open-endedness of it). The book's fast-paced as well, which is important, think I just needed more on the mythology somewhere in the middle to make the ending that much more impactful! (And yet, what a final confrontation!)
Digging into the next part of the series, Beyond the Black Gate immediately to find more. For now, I'll just say from what I've read of Sale, this is the kind of rich, detailed, character-driven work to expect each time. Go dig up his other works right now!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.