Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.
This review is for Cthulhu’s Car Park by D.S. Ritter.
There’s something creeping around in the basement. And it has tentacles.
Sam’s job as a parking attendant has always been boring. Until now. A hole straight to hell has opened up and evil lurks in the shadows of the garage. When management fails to help, Sam turns to her friends and coworkers.
But, can a handful of burned out employees save a city? Will Sam discover the secret of the parking garage without getting fired, or will she die trying?
Find out in… Cthulhu’s Car Park.
Probably the most original novella of our team’s batch, Cthulhu’s Car Park explores what happens when supernatural Lovecraftian horrors clash with the mundane – specifically, the day job at a local car parking garage. I was honestly expecting this story to be a horror comedy, but the emphasis here is certainly more on the horrors of monsters and also customer service.
The story is told from the perspective of Sam, who works at a city car parking garage in Ann Arbor as a parking attendant. Her job isn’t massively complicated or glamorous – she basically helps customers pay their parking fees. Much of that is automated these days, but customers being customers, they don’t always mix well with technology or simple devices, and so a human touch is required. While going through the motions of her day job, Sam notices some strange noises coming from the spooky basement garage, and upon investigation, she comes across a green jelly-like monster that oozes when splatted. This begins a sequence of horrifying events that reveals the existence of eldritch monsters that want what all evil beings of the cosmos want – the end of the world!
Sam thus has to put together a team of her colleagues to deal with this mess while also dealing with rude and entitled customers. Just because the world could be ending doesn’t mean you can skip out of work.
Personally, I’m a fan of characters bringing together a team to face horrors together, and I loved that the employees of a parking garage were the last line of defence between reality and the end of the universe. Sam is a fairly optimistic character, all things considered, and I liked her no-nonsense attitude of just getting on with the job at hand – serving customers and killing monsters. Though I would have liked to see more development of her character. I get a sense that she’s satisfied with her lot in life and didn’t really have many goals to strive for, or opportunities for her character to overcome odds and change throughout the story. Frankly, I think she needs a bit more self-respect!
The bulk of the story is based around the car park garage, as you might expect, and the author did a great job at describing the day job while also setting the atmosphere. While a car park might not seem like the scariest of horror locations, working a night shift in a quiet car park is spooky at the best of times, which you’ll know if you’ve ever been alone in one at night, and the author captured that creepy feeling perfectly. The author also stated on their Goodreads how they’d been inspired from their own experience of working as a car park attendant, and that definitely shines through!
The story is a fairly predictable monster hunting mash up, but with a few Lovecraftian twists. I would have liked to learn more about the lore surrounding the monsters and what threat they represented, though, and possibly more tension and stakes throughout some of the final battles. I also felt the ending was a bit abrupt, and would have liked to see Sam and the team’s return to normality after.
The story was well-paced with short-snappy chapters that kept me turning the pages.
I enjoyed reading through this one and it reminded me of silly pulp-horror movies but without the silliness. There wasn’t much depth, but it was a fun and quick easy read.
Cover Art and Formatting
The cover is very psychedelic! It definitely says eldritch vibes.