hype for The Acolyte by Nick Cutter

I know my posts and book club guides are a little heavy on the Nick Cutter stuff, and I swear I am not trying to make the noises above a dedicated Nick Cutter fan page, but too bad – I love his books, and I’m just going to sit here for a while and sing about The Acolyte!

So. The Acolyte. I’m going to admit something here, and I’m not proud of it: I had resisted reading this book for a long time, purely based on the cover.

I mean, look at this thing, right? I was already hooked on what I could find written by Nick Cutter (known as Craig Davidson to his parents), but I am super into horror these days, and at a glance – this doesn’t look like horror? Does it? Ok, maybe it does. I probably didn’t look close enough. Goddammit. Actually, I am positive I didn’t look close enough. I assumed it was a detective story, and skipped on over to the next shiny thing in my to-be-read pile. As any proper bird-brained raven does.

Photo of The Acolyte by Nick Cutter book cover, with a gold police-type badge with an image of Christ on the cross instead of a municipal coat of arms.

Published in 2015, and for eight long years I’ve been aware of its existence, but completely ignorant to its contents. If you haven’t read The Acolyte by Nick Cutter, please allow me to hype it up for a moment:

Photo of The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood book cover, where figures in red hoods walk next to a brick wall

The book contains definite shades of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – where a dystopian America has been taken over by religious fundamentalists; the governing “commanders” take a heavy-handed approach to enforcing oppressive roles and justify their actions as a solution to address widespread infertility and population decline. In The Acolyte, the “church” is once again ubiquitous, and dictates all aspects of government, law, health care, science (what science?) and on and on. The Acolytes are essentially police, and they enforce religious doctrine among the population. I don’t know about you, but I find that concept CHILLING!

The Acolyte was published in 2015, which means it was conceived and written during a time before life in the western world started its current ongoing skid into chaos. Knowing this made me appreciate even more the astute and prophetic political and ideological (fictional – I have to remind myself it is still technically fictional) devolution that led to the world being what it was in the book. Particularly striking to me, was how Jonah Murtag, the main character, was just a regular guy, doing his job. Just like we’re all regular people, trying to do our jobs.

Murtag doesn’t seem bothered by life in New Bethlehem, he accepts it for what it is. His attitudes about people who might hold faiths other than the accepted Christianity of the ruling/owner class, while appalling, are essentially benign. He believes what he’s been raised to believe, but isn’t especially cruel or judgemental, and doesn’t question much about why. He’s neither a zealot nor is he subversive, Murtag just goes with the flow until suddenly the flow is impossible to accept.

This is a Nick Cutter book, so there is some gross-out body horror content. Which – I mean, come on – is awesome, even if it makes you throw up in your mouth a little bit! Seriously, if you’re thinking about reading The Acolyte, and you’re hankering for a heavy dose of dystopian horror, DO IT. Just do it.

Check out the noises above book club guides for other great Nick Cutter books, The Breach and The Handyman Method.

go ahead, whistle past the graveyard

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