Horror is absolutely not a genre that I reach for. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t watch scary movies. Even the early episodes of Supernatural were too much for me on occasion.
When I started followed Cam Wolfe on YouTube and Twitch, he was still working on Welcome Descent. It would be his self-published debut horror novel. I enjoyed the writing videos he made and tuning in to his writing streams to get me through NaNoWriMo 2020. After doing a satirical review of his satire book, I thought it was only fitting that I pre-order Welcome Descent to see what his work is like when he’s not making fun of The Bachelor.
Also I thought he was cute so I bought his book (Cam, if you’re reading this…let’s pretend I didn’t say that).
When I found out that I’d be co-hosting a writing stream he was part of, I figured it was the best time to read his book. I also did a reading vlog for it because I’ve already done one for his satire book.
But enough about that, let’s get into my thoughts about the first horror book I willingly picked up and read.
Title: Welcome Descent
Author: Cam Wolfe
Book 26 of 2021
Reading Time: 3hrs 53mins
Date Finished: October 23, 2021
Content Warnings: Graphic and sexual violence, self harm, alcoholism, hateful language, pedophilia (provided by author)
What Worked For Me: Setting, psychological themes
What Didn’t Work For Me: N/A
The story follows Joseph, a driver-for-hire whose life has pretty much hit rock bottom. Without his wife and son around, he spends his time drinking and being angry at the world. When a massive storm rolls in and prevents him from leaving his apartment, the monsters that haunt him start to take on real shapes.
I’m starting this with saying that it was weird to read about a character with my Dad’s name. Sometimes I got really uncomfortable because…some scenes were just not fun to imagine.
Going into this, I had little expectations of what I would experience. Horror is a genre I tend to stay away from because my imagination makes everything infinitely worse. But Welcome Descent sounded interesting and I really wanted to support Cam after watching part of his creative progress for this book through his videos. Still, I was a bit nervous about whether I could stand the horror.
Turns out, I could. There was one thing that really freaked me out and that was the pale, skeletal monster thing that stood in the corner of Joseph’s bedroom for several nights. I kept glancing at the corners of my room to make sure no white creatures suddenly appeared. Despite having my cat with me, I knew she’d abandon me or continue sleeping if a monster appeared in the middle of the night.
That creature was probably the most horrifying thing to me for the first half of the book. I was so worried that I’d have nightmares after reading this, it almost made me pull an all-nighter to finish this so I could be assured that everything would turn out somewhat okay. But sleep won and I thankfully made it without any nightmares.
Having said that, I did enjoy the story quite a lot. It was more psychological than anything, which helped me rationalize some of the fear I experienced. The pacing was excellent, giving just enough time during the slow chapters to bring back that sense of safety before diving back into the horror. There were a few scenes and chapters where I felt lost, but I think it was largely due to my unfamiliarity with the genre.
Aside from the skeletal monster, there was a variety of other terrifying creatures that showed themselves in the book. Most creatures were demonic in nature while others were plain gross. There was a scene involving the Joseph’s neighbor and foot sucking that left me completely grossed out. I had to put the book down for a bit after that because I could almost hear the slurping sounds and ugh…*shudder*
A lot of the creatures revealed themselves with a moment where their jaws unhinged. Then they’d chase Joseph around as they mouths hung open. It created an extremely vivid picture in my mind that reminded me of something very specific. After a lot of thought and nearly finishing the book, I finally realized that I was thinking of this image from Attack on Titan.
Imagining that while reading was more than enough to make me question why I picked this up in the first place. Apparently all it takes for me to read a horror book is to follow the author’s career for 5 months and think he’s cute. Sigh. I need to get out more.
I flew through the second half of the book pretty quickly. It’s a short book compared to most of what I read, but there’s so much packed into the pages of Welcome Descent. Once I got a little past the halfway mark, I read everything else in a single sitting.
The more I read, the more I wondered if anything I knew or read about was real. I questioned Joseph’s life for a good chunk of the story, trying to figure out what was real and what was made up. The fact that he often wasn’t clear about what really happened made me even more curious to see if I could weed out the real memories before they were revealed.
Moments from Joseph’s past were the hardest to pinpoint. There were times when I thought I knew what was real, only for it to be false. Other times, I couldn’t believe the kind of person he was, then read on as he confirmed that he had done bad things. And somehow, I felt kind of bad for him as things went on. Somehow, he was able to gain enough of my sympathy that I wasn’t purely mad at him for ending up where he was.
The end was a wild mix of gruesome, horrific, and satisfying. I liked that I never knew what would happen next and how things started to wrap up. So many things were thrown at me, but it didn’t ever feel like too much. It was more like I should have seen it coming, only to see it right before it hit.
Plus, that epilogue left me gasping out loud. I read it back twice more to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. After already getting a very satisfying end to the book, that was like icing on the cake (although I usually find real icing on real cake to be too sweet for my liking). The epilogue was everything I could have asked for and made me wonder if there would be any hints for a sequel. If there was one, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
In conclusion, I read a horror book and wasn’t completely traumatized by it. Sometimes I still think about the monsters and have to check my room to make sure they’re not lurking. And I would classify the overall reading experience as a good time. I learned something about a new genre and was interested enough that I’ve gotten a few other horror books since.
I would say that Welcome Descent opened my eyes to a genre that I’ve been rather dismissive off because I’m a scaredy-cat. Moving forward, I think I’m okay enough to dabble in light horror or anything that doesn’t involve outright terrifying scenes. You’d think that my true-crime loving brain would be okay, but that would be completely false.
If you’re looking to get into horror or want to try something from an indie author, I think this is a good one to pick up. I can’t speak to how it compares with other horror books, but I think it deserves a bigger readership than it currently has.