Reviewed By Jake Sylvest

Peripheral John Ryland, Pensacola, FL: World Castle Publishing, 2022, 206 pages, $11.99

For my chosen book, I picked one out from our very own local Barnes and Noble. It was the first small press-published book I saw, but it caught my attention right away. As soon as a read the back, I knew it would be a horror novel. And despite the fact that I don’t get scared by horror books anymore, I knew I would enjoy it anyway. As I grew up reading Goosebumps and listening to creepypastas, horror is my favorite thing to read and write The book’s name is Peripheral, and it’s by John Ryland. It’s about a woman named Camille, her husband Bo, and a ghost named Anna Grace. The cover features an eclipse and dark clouds surrounding it. It’s nothing super elaborate or fancy but I do indeed like it. I do wish the back of the cover had more detail or continued the clouds over. In this edition, it’s just a normal black back, which seems a little basic and boring. Now for the actual story itself.

The book jumps right off in the action, as we see Camille watching Anna Grace the ghost at the very beginning. I like that he jumped in with one of the main characters already seeing a ghost, and not with both her and her husband being skeptics. But with the husband being the skeptic, this makes that good old back and forth we see in ghost stories between the believer and the skeptic, which I always enjoy. I liked that Camille and Bo had a solid relationship at the beginning too, as this makes Camille struggle more emotional.

I also liked that it doesn’t take long for Camille’s fall and so-called “slip” into the spiritual veil between the dead and the living. I’ve seen concepts like this before, most notably in season 4 of Supernatural, where the main characters go into the vail to chase down a demon that was killing reapers. But this was a different and refreshing take, as now a demon has come in and possessed Camille’s body. In the story, they call these demons lookers, an interesting name. And the main antagonist is the one possessing Camille, and I liked how it was differentiated from normal demons. It reminded me of a Dead By Daylight killer, the dredge. At is seemed to be a manifestation of multiple beings combined into one.  And I liked how it had different goals than your normal demon. In a lot of horror movies, a demon is usually just a one-dimensional being set on killing all the characters. But this takes an interesting approach of destroying its host’s body with vices slowly over time, while the spirit of the original body can do nothing but watch. This gives a tragic backstory to Anna Grace. In most other horror stories the little girl ghost is usually a villain, but I liked how she was a good guy in this, guiding Camille through the spiritual vail. All the characters I thought were really well written and layered, but my favorite was Nate. He was the funniest character in my opinion. The dialogue was strong, flowed well, and felt natural. His description of events, places, and scenes, all were written pretty well and helped paint a good image of what was going on in the story.

As for the ending, it was unexpected but I really enjoyed it. It was not at all how I expected it to end. It ended on a bittersweet note and those types of endings are always my favorite. I find happy endings to be overly cheesy and unrealistic, but a note of tragedy with every ending is perfect. I feel like writing endings for horror movies can be even harder than your normal story too, since horror movies are usually already bleaker than most stories, so it’s hard to get any hope out of tragedy with that. Overall I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. I’m not the hugest fan of ghost and demon stories but this one was original enough to be good. It’s available for 11.99 on Amazon.