What Lies Beneath
Brave a haunted underworld in the new novella by horror fiction’s rising star, Hailey Piper.
Review by Lucy McLaughlin, Dark Matter Magazine Senior Editor
March 11, 2021
Since the debut of her first novella in 2018, Hailey Piper has been churning out quality works of science fiction and horror at an astonishing rate. Her latest offering is The Worm and His Kings, and it doesn’t disappoint. In many ways, the story feels like the next step in Hailey’s career. Not only is The Worm and His Kings unique when compared to the rest of the author’s body of work, but it’s perhaps even more frightening, too.
The story takes place in a troubled New York City. The number of missing persons across the city is increasing at an alarming rate, and no one knows quite why. Deeply disturbed by the events of the latest disappearance and certain that there must be something more sinister at work, the story’s protagonist, Monique, begins to search the city for answers and soon finds herself lost in a secret underworld beneath the bustling city streets. She is certain that this haunted lair will provide the answers she seeks. Now, all she has to do is survive.
Yes, there are monsters, creepy corridors, things that go bump in the night—everything you’d want in a horror novel—but what makes this novel truly successful is Piper’s ability to take standard horror tropes and interweave them with social themes that address the struggles of identity and acceptance, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community. It doesn’t pander, it doesn’t exploit, it doesn’t sermonize; it is, at its core, a genuine story about human struggle. The Worm and His Kings sheds light on the fact that, for many people, the path to self-determination is full of hardships far more sinister than any supernatural being.