(Quattro Books; 2010/12) Patrick Senecal is Quebec’s top horror novelist, and AGAINST GOD, the first-ever English translation of a Senecal novel, provides a potent glimpse of what we Anglophones have been missing. It’s a stunner, a propulsive depiction of grief and madness experienced by a 35-year-old man who’s just lost his family. We follow that man over the next few days as he becomes increasingly divorced from reality and commits many senseless acts of violence, driven by an all-consuming rage against God.
It should be mentioned that the form of AGAINST GOD is as important as the narrative. The entire novel is related in a single sentence, interspaced with (but never broken by) italicized dialogue exchanges. Far from the type of affected and/or pretentious treatment you might expect, this gives the tale a breathless intensity appropriate to the simmering mindset of its protagonist. As for the narrative voice, it’s frank, un-showy and related in the second person, although it occasionally lapses into the first (from “You” to “I”), and on those occasions it’s not the protagonist whose voice is being intoned.
Said protagonist is stunned when cops show up on his doorstep one morning and announce that his wife and children have been killed in a car accident. He’s unable to process the information, and in the first of many bizarre acts pushes a wheelchair-bound relative into the middle of a busy street. From there he impulsively picks up a young woman in a restaurant, gets in a car accident, buys and then throws away a ton of DVDs, rents a new apartment and picks up another woman, who he kills in an irrational fit.
The above covers roughly the book’s first half. From there the relentless tone only grows more so. You can be sure that further killings are in store as the protagonist’s rage and disillusionment increase, and the novel’s true narrator finally identifies Himself. The ending, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is anything but happy.
Senecal’s portrayal of a profoundly bitter and even psychotic protagonist is quite daring, even by horror fiction standards. This novel’s ruthless sensibilities are obviously far removed from traditional American (or even Canadian) fictional ethos, yet it’s still a compulsive page-turner with a vision whose underlying truth cannot be denied, much less ignored