Written by: Erin D. Dailey
No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches by C. M. Saunders is a fast paced novella that effectively combines the horrors of war with elements of the horror story genre. Beginning and ending in 1916 during the Somme Offensive in France, the action covers a relatively short time span as British soldier Harry Doyle does his duty to the war effort against the German army.
The action begins realistically enough as actual horrors of daily combat are recounted. In fact, “Harry Doyle spent his first three days in the trenches vomiting and retching.” The supernatural horror element is subtly introduced with the battleground tales of fiendish Hell hounds and inhuman, indestructible German storm troopers. Harry hears his fellow soldiers share tales of what happens to men when they are chased and caught by these fantastically described Hell hounds. Because of the advancement of “science and technology,” the shared stories ring as much of truth as of “fevered imaginations”. Harry’s encounters with a German storm trooper, equally well-detailed, are even more horrific.
Alternating between Harry’s dream state and actual battle events, makes the story more terrifying. There’s a section where Harry thinks he must have died and gone to be with loved ones who have died before him.
At a seminal point, Harry and his sergeant go out to discover what’s happened to the soldiers who were sent on a mission, but haven’t returned. Quite a number have gone out, not to be heard from again. One of those is Harry’s childhood mate, Dewi Perrett, born March 18, 1894.
There is no spoiler coming. As even the title indicates, No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches operates on more than one level. There are at least three. It’s a story worth reading and like many a well-told tale, leaves the reader with something to talk about.