Horror plays on the fear of the reader, sometimes by summoning shadows out from the dark, calling demons out from the abyss, casting madness on the weak, and sometimes by playing with truths of reality. Dan Graffeo plays on the fear of losing all when the bet is called in The Gambling Bug. A cast of characters, weaken and battered by life, succumb to the desire to win it big, gain it all, on the chance to fall to a whole new low.
There is hardly few that are stranger to the rush of gambling. The internal dialogue, or lack of one, that goes on when the chips are down is intense. Self-loathing erodes any amount of confidence and is world shattering, yet it seems to only emerge after everything has been lost. The Gambling Bug captures that feeling as it illustrates the emotional, financial, and life crushing destruction of a group of believe able characters.
The Gambling Bug focuses on a group of gambling addicts that are targeted by a mysterious figure of the same name. The mysterious figure knows the desires of his victims, and will dangle the thought close enough to lead them to fall. Only this time, losing everything means just that. The Gambling Bug will take it all.
Do I recommend The Gambling Bug? Yes, but the recommendation is not without caveats. I found the pacing sort of slow. A definite slow burner that sometimes spends more time describing atmosphere and environment than it does character. For example, chapter one is essentially a character buying scratch offs over tickets for his wife and was padded with extra details like describing the stores and shopping bags. Description is good, but description for padding is annoying, at least to me.
Granted, the second chapter pivots a character you’ll grow to love and hate against a school when she was fired for speaking the truth. Dan Graffeo’s strength is dialogue, for sure. I find the discourse between the characters entertaining and revealing. As a reader that can’t stand clutter, small talk, and fluff, I found jumping ahead to the dialogue fitting for me.
The Gambling Bug picks up when the characters start to reveal more of their vices and flaws, and fall victim to the demonization of the gambling bug. A phantom of sorts that visits our characters in their dreams and leads them to a path of self-destruction.
Overall, if you do not mind a few long-winded descriptions of things, props, and locales, then you’ll be able to enjoy as the characters engage in debauchery and fail as they struggle from complete self-destruction.