Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
As the second part of our review series of critically-acclaimed dark fiction writer Philip Fracassi’s work — preceded by our review of Fragile Dreams and to be followed by a review of his new collection Behold the Void — we now present our review of his novella, Sacculina. The review series will be finalized with an in-depth interview with Philip Fracassi, concerning his new collection and what the future has in store for the dark fiction author.
Alas, let the review commence!
Sacculina follows the reuniting of two brothers and their father (accompanied by a close friend of the older brother) after the eldest is released from state prison. The group sets sail on a rusty old fishing boat with an eccentric captain, hoping to return to a state of normalcy in their lives, only to discover that there are things beneath the ocean’s surface: morbid and extremely volatile organisms.
First and foremost, we think it is important to know what the word “Sacculina” means by definition.
Sacculina — A genus of barnacles that is a parasitic castrator of crabs, “body-snatching parasites.”
If this gives any credence to potential readers, know that such a vile and frightening name fits perfectly as the title of this novella.
As with Fragile Dreams, Fracassi effortlessly crafts a storytelling narrative that is impossible to put down once the first page is read. His unique use of language carries the reader through terror that is anchored by realistic interaction and characters. The novella, much like his last, is written in a structure that complements the tones and settings of the plot.
Fracassi once again shows his prowess in carrying a story with the human element, exposing the traumas of characters vividly and using these aspects to juxtapose, yet again, another novella that breathes with each page turned and whose heart beats stronger after each section read. The decision to not have chapters was risky, but in the end was clearly an inspired choice as it only magnifies the growing terror aboard the sinking ship these characters find themselves upon.
More so than Fragile Dreams, Sacculina finds itself smack dab in the center of “weird,” subtle Lovecraftian themes of terrors deep below and the insignificance of human life cooking on the back burner, while desperation and survival take the forefront. Unlike most authors working today, Fracassi has a gift for seamlessly intertwining impacting moments of characters’ lives with pertinence to the present.
There is not a moment throughout the novella that feels forced or unbelievable. The father, Henry, awash with grief and guilt; Jim, the youngest, clinging on to hope in nearly every situation; Jack, the eldest, a character with a questionable past that leaks into who he has grown to be as a man, and Chris, the best friend of Jack, a stubborn child who loves Jack despite his also questionable personality. Even the captain is brought to life, his mannerisms and behavior vivid, plausible. The settings painted with Fracassi’s fast-paced but often poetic language nail images into the reader’s head that stick like glue, embodying the story with a rich environment of the deep ocean and the perils below.
There are moments of sheer horror in the novella, others of blind joy, and several that will sink the stomachs of readers with debilitating sorrow. Sacculina improves on Fragile Dreams, knowing at its epicenter what it is and never straying from that understanding. A story that uses its small scale to the best of advantages, Sacculina is a chronicle of how grief can destroy families, the unwavering hope for retribution that follows, and the eventual inevitable flinching of life’s events that aim to split the wounds, rather than stitching them shut.
We highly recommend Sacculina to any reader who enjoys horror with heart and emotional connections to characters that are often underdeveloped and overlooked in the genre. We also cannot wait to dive into Behold the Void, as Fracassi continues to pave his way as an impressive writer who bears unique qualities in his craft.
Philip Fracassi, an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles.
He has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and was the founder of Equator Books, a publishing house and rare, out-of-print bookstore in Venice, CA.
Philip currently works full-time in the film industry and on his writing. His screenplay credits include “Girl Missing,” distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment (2015) for Lifetime Television and “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups,” distributed by Disney Home Entertainment (2012). Films in development include “Escape the Night,” “The Boys in the Valley,” “Gothic,” and “Vintage.”
His horror novelettes, “Altar,” and “Mother,” are currently available from Dunhams Manor Press. His literary novel, “The Egotist” is available online.
His newest novella, “Fragile Dreams,” is now available from JournalStone Publications.
You can follow Philip on Facebook and on Twitter (@philipfracassi), or at his official website at http://pfracassi.com.