Title: The Coliseum
Author: Patrick Lestewka
Release date: March 25, 2011
It’s interesting to write a review of a novella, written by a single author, but having to compare that author with two other authors. In this case, it’s unique, because all three of these authors are the same person.
‘The Coliseum’ is a 2011, extreme-horror release by Patrick Lestewka, aka Nick Cutter, aka Craig Davidson. Davidson had a number of extreme releases under the Lestewka pseudonym between 2000 and 2011 and rumor even has it that there is a release under the Lestewka moniker that Davidson himself deemed “too extreme” and vowed to never let it see the light of day. Under the Cutter banner, Davidson has released a number of more “commercial extreme horror” novels. Think ‘The Troop’ and ‘The Deep.’ And as himself, he has released some highly successful books that range from insightful memoir to supernatural, coming-of-age.
I’d previously read ‘The Preserve’ under the Lestewka banner and was intrigued by the synopsis of ‘The Coliseum.’ Open a prison in Northern Canada where anything goes and the prisoners are left to fend for themselves.
What I liked: What is advertised is exactly what you get. A bunch of the worst-of-the-worst criminals in Canadian history get selected to be shipped to this revolutionary type of prison and left to their own devices. Food is dropped in daily, but it’s survival of the fittest and quickly rival factions are formed.
I enjoyed the way Lestewka decided to minimize the ‘ethical’ aspect of it and just state that the prison was pushed ahead and opened. That is the beauty of fiction at times, you can bend and shape the real life narrative to suit the story needed to be told.
The groups are interesting and the main players are all the worst of the worst. You never truly get to latch on with a specific person though, as you know nobody is making it out of this place in one piece.
I was also intrigued with the ‘biggest baddest’ character that was hunkered in the basement. While this played on the familiar trope of “there’s always a bigger threat coming,” it worked well to create an unease that no matter what happened on the main level wouldn’t ultimately matter if the thing in the basement decided to make themselves known.
What I didn’t like: I mean, I knew what I was signing up for, but this often was just extreme for extreme sake and a number of the gruesome deaths became repetitive. The story itself is set up specifically just to try and kill people as extremely as possible, but a tiny, small, smidgeon of character depth would have been fantastic.
Why you should buy this: There’s obviously a section of the horror world that gravitates towards the extreme aspect, so for them, this was tailor-made. If you’re wanting a bit more character depth and resolution, you will not find any.
If you’re looking for a fun, quick read about a converted hockey arena that now houses the horrible, look no further.