By David Nickle
David Nickle’s 2011 debut novel Eutopia, about a eugenicist community in early-twentieth-century Idaho that’s infested by a mind-warping species of parasite known as the Juke, ended on a curious note. A sequel might have gone in many different directions, but I don’t think anyone would have expected a book like Volk.
Volk picks up with the survivors of Eutopia some twenty years later as they are about to become enmeshed in another plot involving the Juke, only this time set among Nazis in Bavaria. That much seems a natural development, but what follows is a political, psychological and philosophical allegory of remarkable depth and ambition: the most intellectually provocative horror novel of the twenty-first century.
This is not a conventional monster story, though it does have a giant tentacle beast that eats people. Instead, Nickle dramatizes themes that have preoccupied him since his first collection of stories, and in particular the dark process of self-seduction that informs everything from codependent relationships to our belief in God. The frailty of the human condition and meaninglessness of the universe draws the mind to find refuge in horrors, drugs, and myths of monstrous purpose. We write our own horror stories in the end. The tapeworm is just along for the ride.