Monday, July 10, 2023

Review: The Militia House by John Milas


The Militia House by John Milas
Henry Holt and Co. 
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Hardcover. 272 pages.

About The Militia House:

"Stephen King meets Tim O’Brien in John Milas’s The Militia House, a spine-tingling and boldly original gothic horror novel. It’s 2010, and the recently promoted Corporal Loyette and his unit are finishing up their deployment at a new base in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Their duties here are straightforward―loading and unloading cargo into and out of helicopters―and their days are a mix of boredom and dread. The Brits they’re replacing delight in telling them the history of the old barracks just off base, a Soviet-era militia house they claim is haunted, and Loyette and his men don’t need much convincing to make a clandestine trip outside the wire to explore it.

It’s a short, middle-of-the-day adventure, but the men experience a mounting agitation after their visit to the militia house. In the days that follow they try to forget about the strange, unsettling sights and sounds from the house, but things are increasingly . . . not right. Loyette becomes determined to ignore his and his marines’ growing unease, convinced that it’s just the strain of war playing tricks on them. But something about the militia house will not let them go.

Meticulously plotted and viscerally immediate in its telling, The Militia House is a gripping and brilliant exploration of the unceasing horrors of war that’s no more easily shaken than the militia house itself.

The Militia House is the perfect quiet, creeping horror to fill your long summer days. It is John Milas’ debut horror novel and is set in Kajaki, Afghanistan in 2010 during the war. I listened to the audiobook version of The Militia House and absolutely devoured it–this is sure to be a book that I will continue to think about and possibly re-read for many years.

We follow Corporel Loyette as he and his unit are moved to a new base in Afghanistan where a British unit has already been stationed. Loyette is unsettled by a few odd occurrences he notices around base, but thinks nothing of it outside of his mind playing tricks on him. However, Loyette and his unit are soon informed by the British unit of an abandoned militia house nearby that was the site of a violence battle and is now believed to be haunted.

Since Loyette and his unit are sufficiently bored on base, they manage to plan a visit to the site, where they have a deeply unnerving experience that they op to ignore and not talk about with anyone else once they make it safely back to base. Unfortunately, things don’t go right back to normal as each individual person seems to begin having uniquely odd experiences that begin to put strains on the group as they attempt to maintain an existence in this war-torn area where all they have is themselves and one another.

Milas does an excellent job at conveying the monotonous reality of living on base in Afghanistan and the many different ways in which it can begin to affect each person’s mental wellbeing. At the same time, Milas also does an excellent job at exploring the psychological aspects of being at war, including PTSD, difficulties adapting to civilian life, and how the aforementioned monotony can create varying levels of uncertainty among a unit.

While The Militia House is military horror and there are many war experiences mentioned, there is not much of an emphasis on military action itself in the present, which for me worked well on keeping the attention focused on Loyette and some of the more psychological components of the story. I really appreciated Milas’ exploration of war and introspection concerning the moral and ethics surrounding war and the soldiers’ experiences.

The Militia House is not a horror story that really throws things in your face and focuses on gore and shock value, but rather one that focuses on the slow burn build up of unease and a sense of haunting that slowly builds into a crescendo that truly echoes long after the last page is closed. It is incredibly disquieting is the type of book that is full of images and ideas that are sure to stick around in your head for far longer than you’d like them to.

Milas has a writing style that is both simple and complex in how he crafts his ideas and subsequently conveys them in ways that left me riveted to every word. There is a perfect blend of detail and description mixed in with just enough left unsaid to really impart a sense of terror at the unknown. I will also warn you that this is a story that falls into more of the open ending territory, and I think this was the perfect choice for Milas to end his story with. It probably won't be for everyone–in fact, I'm sure some people will probably end up quite frustrated–but I thought it was the perfect ending to match this atmospheric tale of creeping horror. 

Overall, I’ve given The Militia House five stars! This is a stunningly written work of military horror that filled me with dread until the very last page (and honestly still does) and I genuinely cannot wait to see what’s next from Milas.

*I received a copy of The Militia House courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I've seen this book floating around but I completely missed that it's horror! This sounds like my kind of book, now I need to try it๐Ÿ˜