The Unblemished

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Earthling Publications, 2006

Virgin Books, 2007

British Fantasy Award-winner Williams describes his virtuoso, grotesque nightmare of a book as a ‘paean to the novels I grew up on in the 1980s’. It’s an unnecessary observation: readers will immediately recognize the influence of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Ramsey Campbell. Playing on humanity’s deepest fears and taboos, Williams plunges the reader deep into a hellish near-future where creatures banished five centuries ago rise again to lay eggs in the few people they don’t consume alive, turning London into a cross between hive and abattoir …. Williams is so good at what he does that he probably shouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore, for the sake of everyone’s sanity.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Williams’ threat emerges from the world like an optical illusion being revealed, then you find that society fell apart while you were looking somewhere else… If fantasy and science fiction can encourage us to imagine there could be more to the world than we know, The Unblemished… [is a book] that make us hope there is not. This new mass-market horror series could hardly be off to a stronger start.”
David Hebblethwaite, The SF Site

“Williams is an artful writer and his stark narrative is chilling and thrilling, relentless and fearless. As the antagonists rise up, Williams takes the reader on a journey coloured crimson, a tireless and unflinching descent into a landscape more usually associated with the back rooms of the abattoir. This is visceral writing, grim sentences coldly depicting scenes of clinical gristliness, and all the while, the pressure builds and builds.”
John Berlyne, SFRevu

“On the surface, The Unblemished seems yet another addition to the varied offerings of apocalyptic horror. Don’t be fooled, however – top-notch writing skills, poetic vision and beautiful prose raise this way above your Hammer House of Horror… an unusual – as well as highly accomplished – terror.”
Nick Ryan, Sunday Express

“Conrad Williams writes dark and powerful prose balancing the poetic and elegant with needle-sharp incision. The Unblemished, winner of the International Horror Guild’s Best Novel award, is cleverly constructed, building relentlessly from intense, intimate terror to something on another scale altogether. “Our world is changing,” says one character two-thirds through the book, and the ruined London in the closing chapters of this stark, gripping novel will stay with you for a long time.”
Keith Brooke, The Guardian

“In The Unblemished Conrad Williams has produced his longest and finest work to date, a book that reprises and expands upon themes he has addressed before, which pays homage to the tropes of its genre while taking them off in new and exciting directions. Kudos to him, and also to Virgin for making this novel available to a larger audience.”
Peter Tennant, Black Static

“[Williams'] carefully crafted descriptions of horrific images, along with the ability to suggest they are even worse than words can tell, is reminiscent of Poe and the early stories of Clive Barker. Not for the squeamish, but no fan of literary horror should miss it.”
Lisa Tuttle, The Times

“Williams possesses a poet’s appreciation for language, a talent for painting Boschian nightmares with generous dabs of prose as beautiful as anything by Keats. This prose is at turns stark and hallucinogenic, building surrealistic and sadistic imagery upon the mundane and familiar. The effect of such a conglomeration of sequences is disorienting in all the right ways. At turns witty, shocking, and (yes) actually horrifying, The Unblemished is a triumph of the macabre. This novel is nothing less than truly epic, though still nasty and thoughtful and meaty.”
Daniel Robichaud, Horror Reader
The Unblemished ought to shake up and impress a lot of people, it ought to increase the Conrad Williams Fan Club by tens and yet more tens of thousands of new readers. This is horror literature unabashed and entire, at full imaginative stretch, beautiful and blazing. Williams possesses a fearless heart and an absolutely gorgeous soul.”
Peter Straub

“You should follow certain rules if you’re going to crack open The Unblemished: Don’t read it at night. Don’t read it if you scare easily. Don’t read it by yourself. But you should read it, regardless. From the opening pages, Brit novelist Conrad Williams gets under your skin and freaks you out. Williams has built a whole mythology, one that makes the book feel like a cobwebbed relic from another time. Dust it off, if you like. Just do it at, say, ten in the morning. In a crowded room. In a military compound.”
Time Out Chicago

The Unblemished is an unpleasant book — in the best possible sense of the word, of course — horror at its most visceral and disturbing. Each chapter brings some fresh new atrocity, each one very real and very close to home. Williams has done a wonderful thing: a novel that steps to the very edge of acceptable levels of gore, but which never quite takes that final step into the realms of turning the reader off. His writing is spare and beautiful. The Unblemished is ideal reading for the coming cold winter nights. Buy it now and start in immediately — this is perfect Halloween reading for all horror fans. Highly recommended.”
Dark Isles

“[A] rich, emotionally engaging and extremely fast-paced novel… The Unblemished achieves the admirable, tricky task of interweaving physical horror with spiritual terror, reaching impressive heights of panic in its harvest of suspenseful shenanigans and heartfelt archetypes… an unapologetic white-knuckle thriller…”
William P Simmons, Infinity Plus

“Conrad Williams takes us on a roller-coaster ride through ancient buried secrets and body-horror invasion into the pulsing gut of apocalyptic British horror.”
Christopher Fowler

“The fact that Williams chose a human being to be the most chilling villain in this novel of powerfully conceived monsters is but one sign of his brilliance as a storyteller. The Unblemished combines a carefully orchestrated accumulation of paranoid detail reminiscent of Ramsey Campbell with passages of vividly described (and highly graphic) transformations evocative of early Clive Barker. But what impressed me most was Williams’s ability to evince true compassion for the ordinary human beings trapped in these extraordinary circumstances.”
Steve Rasnic Tem

“An apocalyptic nightmare narrated with great vigour, clarity and stylishness. Steel yourself for some hideous sadism — there’s awe along the way.”
Ramsey Campbell

2 thoughts on “The Unblemished

  1. Genuinely the scariest book I have ever read, terrified me to the bone from the first page. Goes above and beyond the horror genre, an amazing read.

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