The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey (by Christian Francis)

Anton Stacey is one of the two sons of Pastor Stacey, an old fashioned fire and brimstone preacher of a small mountain town. After escaping the fundamentalist violence routinely offered as their fathers answer to any question, Anton leaves for the big city. Here he builds a life and forgets his past until one day a message from his brother tells him of his fathers death, and a request to attend the burial.

As overjoyed as he is to reunite with his brother, Anton is in no rush to rekindle his relationship with the town or anyone in it. But when his brother calls he has no alternative but answer, and this brings him face to face with a horror far worse than anything he experienced in his youth.

I’ve listened to several books performed by Christian Francis, and he is as dependable here as he usually is. He doesn’t have the range as some performers, those people who manage to do things with their voices that seem to defy reality, but he always differentiates between characters well, and the production is always clear and seamless.

However, this is the first non-novelization I have read from him, and though I think he writes well I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I had hoped. The first two chapters of “The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey” follow the familiar theme of “child escapes abusive religious parents” which essentially becomes little more than a reiteration of already overly familiar themes. It came across as a little heavy-handed, and added little beyond the usual stereotypes. As an opening it left a lot to be desired, but once we get past this and into the story it moves along at a nice pace. Though there does seem to be a scatological fixation and an overall emphasis on the “gross” rather than horror. 

The later chapters, when reality seems to break down around the brothers, I found much more engaging, and the sympathetic bond between the brothers added a great deal to the tension.

This is where the story shined, and it was a shame that there was not more of it in my opinion. I think there was too much time wasted on the horrors of their father (and the condemnation of religion that came with that) when we could have been treated to some bonding between two brothers who had taken very different paths in life.

Even though my response to this story is a bit lukewarm, I think it’s probably worth listening to for most horror enthusiasts. As I often say, a lot of this is down to personal taste, and your mileage will almost certainly vary.

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