Title: My Heart Is a Chainsaw
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
From the back: The Jordan Peele of horror fiction turns his eye to classic slasher films: Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.
Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.
As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths than occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer. As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.
The gist: There’s no two ways about it, My Heart is as Chainsaw is a masterclass in slasher history and execution. Jones has woven slasher lore through a slasher tale that still punches you in the gut with a fist full of heart.
It’s a real deconstruction of slasher history, with sections dedicated to Jade’s papers on slasher films that genuinely made me want to watch and re-watch some of the classics of the genre. But the core of the story is about real lives and real trauma, and a character who escapes into the horror of film as a recourse from the horrors of life.
For me, the best horrors are those that play with the idea of horror, that toy with the focus of fear, our understanding of monsters. And Jones does that so expertly he’s absolutely one of my ‘go-to’ horror authors. I hugely enjoyed The Only Good Indians, and although My Heart is a Chainsaw is in some ways a different beast, it still has heart pulsing through the horror. Oh, and some elk, but it’s probably better you find out about them for yourself…
Favourite line: it’s all deadly in the wrong hands, with the right intent.
Read if: You want an education in slasher history, and a slasher story that will do it’s best to break your heart.
Read with: An archive of slasher films ready to watch with new eyes. And by new eyes, I mean, a fresh look, don’t be going and getting yourself anybody else’s, that’s the start to another story…
Get it: My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (release date 7th September 2021)
ARC gratefully received from Gallery Books, Gallery/Saga Press, and Netgalley