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{Book Review} Even the Worm Will Turn by Hailey Piper

If you’re into contemporary horror literature, chances are that you’ve heard of Hailey Piper. Her career finally seems to be getting the mainstream attention it deserves after years of indie accolades. For those unfamiliar with her work, Piper is a queer and trans horror author who specializes in the transgressive, the erotic, and the cosmic.

Her novella, The Worm and His Kings, provides a great example of her work. First published in 2020, The Worm and His Kings follows a homeless trans woman Monique. Monique’s quest to find her lost love, Donna, soon leads her into a cult and a cosmic deity underneath the streets of New York. It’s a premise worthy of pulp. In Piper’s hands, the novella blooms into a tale of love, cosmic horror, and doom.

Now, in 2023, Piper’s released a sequel, Even the Worm Will Turn. The sequel follows the object of Monique’s affections from the first book, Donna Ashton. Left as the only human survivor of the first book, Donna tries to live a normal life four years after the incident. However, her actions, and the fate of Monique, still haunt her. Things only get worse when a sadistic man kidnaps her off the street and brings her to an underground facility. Now trapped by mortal hands, Donna quickly discovers their research goes back to the godly Worm.

While a summary is all well and good, I know you’re all asking the same question. “Is the sequel any good?” I’m proud to say that, yes, Piper brought her A-game once again.

Even the Worm Will Turn, in many ways, offers a wildly different story from its predecessor. While The Worm and His Kings gives a very active story of discovery and mystery, Even the Worm Will Turn feels more contemplative, even brooding. Much of the book centers on Donna’s fracturing mind in her captivity, making the story almost a character study.

In a less skilled writer’s hands, this could be a weakness, especially with a character like Donna. Unlike the determined Monique from the first story, Donna is a greyer character. However, Piper excels in the moral grey spaces. Donna’s moral quandaries, fractured mind, and dissociation from the world around her provide excellent meat for any reader. No, Donna’s not what you might call “likable.” However, she is traumatized, hurting, desperate for real love, and wondering if she deserves the suffering she endured in the story. In all the ways it counts, Donna reads as painfully human, and that’s exactly what you want from a great character.

Perhaps a bigger turn-off in the story might be its central focus: timelines. Yes, Even the Worm Will Turn features a plot deeply concerned with the time stream and the old “for want of a nail” quandary. If such plots tend to confuse you or just aren’t your cup of tea, you might want to skip Even the Worm Will Turn.

Speaking as someone who never liked those plots either, however, you might want to give it a chance. Piper never succumbs to excess in a story like this. Time manipulation reserves itself solely for the greater purpose of the novella. When will it propel Donna’s story forward? How will a split in the time stream contribute to her growth? Or will it make her regress? These are the questions Piper’s interested in asking and answering. At every turn in the story, though, Piper gives very satisfying answers.

Overall, Even the Worm Will Turn makes for a surprising but fulfilling second entry in Piper’s The Worm and His Kings trilogy. I would never have guessed the story’s direction, but I’m beyond pleasantly surprised. Here’s hoping that a thrilling conclusion to the story arrives soon. In the meantime, though, pick up the first two novellas wherever books are sold. Join the choir piercing the universe. I’m sure the song will grow on you.