Welcome to Meadowsville, the home of protagonist Alexandra Hughes and the setting of this disturbing, psychological horror story, Preternatural: Evolution.
In the first book of the Preternatural series, the town of Meadowsville is plagued by the popular urban legend of Mr. Smith, and later his predecessor Blackheart. These monsters are vampire-like creatures who feed on the generational trauma of their victims. After three unlikely members of the town–Christian, David, and Alexandra–band together to defeat the monster, peace and sanity return to Meadowsville and a bright future looms in the horizon … or does it?
In Preternatural: Evolution, Alexandra Hughes returns to the town to take up the mantel of shepherding her father’s church. In doing so, she must face unresolved trauma as the specter of Blackheart haunts Meadowsville from beyond the grave. In order to defeat Blackheart, Alexandra must face her personal pain, loss, and insecurity, all while acting as a leader to both her congregation and the town.
Professionally, author Peter Topside is a clinical exercise physiologist. In his personal life, he is a father, chef and baker, movie fanatic, and writer. Topside experienced a difficult upbringing that resulted in crippling PTSD. His journey to confront his fears and find healing informs the story he tells in his books, making the Preternatural series an interesting work of speculative fiction as Topside incorporates mental health issues alongside fantasy themes.
On the realistic end, the character descriptions match a wide range of mental illness symptoms. Descriptions of depression, anxiety attacks, alcoholism, codependency, and abuse (both physical and emotional) are very real and poignant throughout both novels. On the fantasy end, Preternatural: Evolution is a gruesome horror novel about a supernatural creature that feeds off of the trauma of mortals. In the story, it is people’s refusal to confront their past in appropriate ways that keeps the monster alive.
Beyond the mere descriptions of mental health symptoms, I was most fascinated and impressed by how Topside is able to depict the interpersonal consequences of trauma. The plot of Preternatural: Evolution takes place in the shadow of the events that led to the monster’s defeat in the first book. However, the alteration of circumstances does not always lead to healing in cases of trauma. As is thoughtfully depicted in the book, survivors of trauma can continue to live in and act out the past without realizing what the consequences are for those around them. Hurts can be passed on and brought back to life–in the case of Preternatural: Evolution, literally bringing back the monster. As such, Preternatural: Evolution is a thought-provoking and worthwhile read to anyone interested in horror and fantasy, and it’s a great example of how these genres can be used to explore the boundaries of real-world issues.
Preternatural, Book 1, and Preternatural: Evolution, Book 2, are both available on Amazon in print and digital formats.
Mental Health in Speculative Fiction9.5/10
- Writer: Peter Topside
- Publisher: Meadowsville Quill, LLC
- Cover and Interior Designer: GKS Creative
- Project Manager: The Cadence Group
- Editors: Monti Shalosky, Kimberley A. Bookless
- Number of Pages: 147