REVIEW: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca

Sadomasochism. Obsession. Death.

A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s — a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.

What have you done today to deserve your eyes?

Warnings: Violence, Abusive relationship, Animal death, Suicide

Category: F/F

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is a short horror novella that delves into a toxic, abusive long-distance lesbian relationship conducted online in the 90s/2000s over IMs and forum postings. As a piece of queer horror it is every bit as creepy and atmospheric as it’s rather haunting cover illustration promises it to be. While it is now out of print, it is as of this review available for pre-order as a part of a novella collection entitled Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes.

WRITING
The writing here is unique and quite ambitious, as instead of being told via prose, it is told exclusively over a series of archived forum posts, IMs and emails exchanges. It therefore has a kind of quasi-realism to it as we are reading the correspondences of the two characters, but are privy to none of their experiences or thoughts aside from what is detailed in these correspondences. This leaves a lot of guess work, and makes the reader pay close attention to details like dates and timestamps on these messages to pieces together exactly how quickly this story and relationship is progressing. While I find this a very interesting medium that the author is playing with, I believe that LaRocca seems a lot better at writing actual prose than at these exchanges; a lot of the messages don’t really read like how real people would speak, and there’s a beautiful kind of poetry to the language utilized that feels like it would be stunning in a prose novel, but feels forced and in-authentic in what is meant to read as emails and chat logs. That said, it’s also meant to feel off-kilter, atmospheric and creepy so it still ends up working.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
This is emotionally an absolutely raw piece. This is in no way shape or form meant to convey a healthy or romantic relationship. Instead it develops quickly with increasingly blatant red flags that make the reader simultaneously uncomfortable and also frustrated with the main character’s naivete. Watching the story unfold is like watching a car crash in slow motion. It inspires all sorts of emotions and feelings in the reader and really allows the reader to engage with both of these characters. It’s a story that’s more frightening in a subtle way, there’s none of the gruesome violence and action you might find in another horror story, but it’s about a toxic relationship that quickly spirals out of control in ways that make it perhaps more frightening than any otherworldly monster could be. For that, I greatly applaud the way this book focuses on its character’s interactions as a way to draw out its horrific nature.

WORLDBUILDING
There is not a lot to say to the worldbuilding. Being set in the 90s/2000s and taking place exclusively online really puts it within a very specific bracket of experiences. It starts out on a queer forum, and then moves to what is presumably MSN messenger and emails. If you were active online during this time period it will ring pretty true to how internet interactions functioned during that time; no social media, just chat rooms and message boards and waiting up to see if the person you wanted to talk to would log on at the same time as you. Since I grew up very terminally online during this exact time period, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. The only thing it was missing was invasive webcam requests and goatse.

STEAMINESS
There isn’t much sex in this book, although sex is alluded to. Despite that, it is a very sensual story given that it covers a great deal of uncomfortable intimacy. The two people involved are long-distance, and never meet or even really sext all that much (I believe there is one almost sexting scene that does not last long enough to really come to fruition). Instead it is a story about power exchange, about Domination and submission except not a healthy, Safe Sane and Consensual form of Domination and submission, we’re talking “demand that you give me access to your bank account within a week of meeting me” red flag abusive Domination and submission. It is a harrowing story, almost an inverse Venus in Furs (indeed it reminded me a lot of Venus in Furs for its focus on non-sexual forms of submission and degradation). It’s exciting, if you like stories of obsessive sadomasochism, and I found it utterly engaging for that reason alone.

Altogether I actually do think this would have been a better novel if it had been written out more in a prose style rather than the exclusively over online interactions which can start to feel a bit gimmicky. I think that it might have been even scarier, and certainly felt a little more organic, if it had been a more traditional piece of writing, but what is here is fantastic and will still leave you shuddering to think of it long after reading.

Have you read Things Have Gotten Worse Since Last We Spoke? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

One thought on “REVIEW: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca

  1. Not gonna lie, your review makes me want to read this book, but then I think about it for a minute and remember that I do not have the stomach for horror (and also I read the book’s cover copy which…aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)

    Like

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