Camp Damascus

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Pub Date Jul 18 2023 | Archive Date Sep 01 2024


A Bram Stoker Award Nominee and CALIBA Golden Poppy Award finalist!
A Best Book of 2023
(Vulture) and a Best Horror Book of 2023 (Esquire, Library Journal)!
An Indie Next Pick!

“A joyful, furious romp through dark places, Tingle proves he's as good at fear as he is at love.” ―T. Kingfisher, bestselling author of What Moves the Dead

From beloved internet icon Chuck Tingle, Camp Damascus is a searing and earnest horror debut about the demons the queer community faces in America, the price of keeping secrets, and finding the courage to burn it all down.

Welcome to Neverton, Montana: home to a God-fearing community with a heart of gold.

Nestled high up in the mountains is Camp Damascus, the self-proclaimed “most effective” gay conversion camp in the country. Here, a life free from sin awaits. But the secret behind that success is anything but holy.

And they’ll scare you straight to hell.

Also by Chuck Tingle:
Bury Your Gays

A Bram Stoker Award Nominee and CALIBA Golden Poppy Award finalist!
A Best Book of 2023
(Vulture) and a Best Horror Book of 2023 (Esquire, Library Journal)!

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ISBN 9781250874627
PRICE $25.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 170 members

Featured Reviews

The eponymous camp is as much of a nightmare as this book is a joy. It's a story of hope, as a young woman recovers from damage suffered at the hands of an extremist cult, both over the course of her lifetime and as a result of her enforced stay at the cult's outwardly "successful" conversion therapy camp.

Supernatural horror elements are handled head-on, but cleverly, and the execution of this high-concept story is straightforward and effective. As with Tingle's previous horror novella Straight, this title's content is appropriate for YA horror readers and up.

This is an excellent, wholesome, and big-hearted read about young queer people facing down their personal demons. It is absolutely terrifying, but the social horror implications are mostly dyed into the fabric of the book, highlighting the plight of one girl and her found family against very real demons.

This is much easier to find and buy now that Tingle's being published by TOR Nightfire (and that is a brilliant move for both of them). My difficulty with this title is that I'm going to give it to the people who need it, and they'll want more just like it, and Tingle hasn't published them yet.

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First, the heads up for folks coming in who are familiar with Chuck's other work: This is NOT a book I'd put in the same category as any of them. If you want more of those books, look elsewhere (Chuck produces plenty of them).

What this is is a very solid short horror book, arguably YA in tone, albeit with a lot more body horror than most YA books (we're talking people throwing up live flies in chapter 1). And, as anyone who's read the description knows, it revolves around gay conversion camps, the vile torture colonies set up by the sort of folks intent on telling you that JK Rowling is subject to a "witch hunt" (spoiler alert: She's not, and she should go away). So beware of both of those things if you can't handle them.

That said, man is this a really good story. It's unabashedly queer and also features an autistic main character (neither of which is a shock coming from Tingle), and is also unabashedly horror. We've got a lead who is having visions of things that can't be real, suspects that she's forgotten things about herself, and whose parents may be hiding something from her. Throw in a hyper-religious Christian community (with touches of Prosperity Gospel to make things even worse), and you've got a setting that's dripping in horror from the beginning, and that's before we start encountering literal demons.

I'm probably not the only person who kind of dismissed Tingle as a one-trick pony for his various "Pounded in the Butt" books, but this shows he's got the potential to be a genuinely interesting horror author. While the ultimate denouement itself is a bit predictable, the sheer violence surrounding it is impressive. Highly recommended.

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Camp Damascus: In Camp Damascus, Tingle joins the rich tradition of using the horror genre to explore real life horrors. Some of these horrors are large and systemic, like conversion therapy/conversion camps and the theocratical and religious power in the United States that allow their existence. Some of these horrors are more personal, like realizing how good intentions can be manipulated into supporting oppressive systems and recognizing and recovering from trauma. Both are used effectively throughout the novel.

The book’s driving force is Rose, the book’s narrator. She is an autistic, lesbian survivor, and each of these identities are crucial in fully understanding her actions and reactions. These identities are also interwoven throughout the novel organically and are sources of strength, not weakness, which I appreciated. I was compelled to keep reading and uncovering more alongside Rose.

One mild critique is that the ending felt a little rushed compared to the pace of the rest of the novel. However, I did still enjoy the book overall and would recommend it.

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Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle is a terrifying and haunting exploration of the demons that the queer community faces in America. Set in the small town of Neverton, Montana, the story takes readers to Camp Damascus, a gay conversion camp where a life free from sin supposedly awaits. But what goes on behind closed doors is far from holy. Tingle's searing debut sheds light on the price of keeping secrets and the courage it takes to burn it all down. Camp Damascus is a poignant and timely read that will stay with readers long after they've turned the last page.

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Thank you, Tor Publishing Group, Tor Nightfire, for allowing me to read Camp Damascus early!

Blessed be the Earth for Chuck Tingle's existence. This book is a masterpiece.

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This was so clearly written by someone with the experience of growing up queer in a religious family/town/area it SHINES off the page. the all consuming desire to behave correctly, the pain or realizing it will never be enough, the freedom of accepting that, and the need to find a community that loves you.

my one complaint is that it does feel like rose's awakening was slightly rushed

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this was really good, I really enjoyed going through this book. I've really been enjoying reading books from Chuck Tingle and he really has a great writing style and I'm amazed at how good the horror aspect was. I could see the spark of Chuck Tingle's work and glad I got to read this.

"The final spark in Martina’s awareness was her friends screaming in panic and horror, blubbering over a body that couldn’t feel and eyes that couldn’t see. I’m supposed to be fine with this because she’s in a better place now. She wasn’t a member of the congregation, but she loved Jesus above all others."

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This book kept me up at night. Rose was such a great character and I love her with my whole soul. Also, pretty wild that with all the supernatural type stuff going on, the church remains the scariest thing about this book. This one's for my religious trauma folks!

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World’s Greatest Author and two time Hugo Awards nominee Chuck Tingle has spent years titillating and educating the internet about how Love Is Real and is for everyone. He’s penned masterpieces like: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, Pounded In the Butt By My Own Butt, Bigfoot Sommelier Butt Tasting, Not Pounded By Anything And That’s Okay, and (a personal favorite) Living Inside My Own Butt For Eight Years —Starting A Business And Turning A Profit Through Common Sense Reinvestment And Strategic Targeted Marketing.

This man has used his skills and hyper-focusing power to churn out dozens and dozens of tales about love, inclusion, consent, friendship, and, well… dinosaurs.

Camp Damascus is Chuck’s foray into the big publishing world and the folks at @tornightfire have hit it out of the park acquiring this novel. While it has its flaws, Camp Damascus tells a heartfelt story of self discovery while wading through the dangers of radicalized religion and hate. Truly terrifying and deeply moving, author named Chuck delivers a memorable, albeit rushed, journey through a “straight camp” with horrible secrets.

Camp Damascus - 3.5/5 ⭐️
Chuck Tingle - 10/5 🌟🌈

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Wow, holy crap, this was amazing!
I was hoping I was going to like this one but I wasn't prepared for how much I would absolutely LOVE it. I DEVOURED it. I didn't want to put it down, it was just that fricken good.

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle was so freaking good.
I found the book highly imaginative with interesting multi-layered characters.
I enjoyed learning more about them and their backstory and I was as curious about them as the mystery.
There are heavy themes in the book as can be expected.
A story with an original plot, strong characters, and a writing style that could cut glass.
It’s a very compelling, sometimes rage-inducing, and a very good story.
I really enjoyed the writing style, which is pure brilliant, I was sucked in so quick my head was spinning.
I loved the setting and the atmosphere. The descriptive storytelling is just mind blowing.
The supernatural element was intriguing. And the horror was phenomenal.
I hope Chuck Tingle continues to create more stories like this.
Because my only con is it the CD wasn’t longer.

Keep in mind this book will absolutely not be for everyone.
But I loved it.

"I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."

Thank You NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!

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This is going to be the best horror novel of the year!! I could not put it down, I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Rose! For queers who love horror this is THE book of 2023

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"A hunger for knowledge is still a hunger."

Chuck Tingle's Camp Damascus portrayed the ins and outs of a remote, ultra-religious Montana town in such an incredibly detailed way. As the story unfolded, you learn more and more about the Christian prophet that founded the Kingdom of the Pines church, which nearly everyone in town belongs to. If not the Kingdom, community members are at least some flavor of conservative Christianity. While a fictional religious sect, it felt real and familiar.

Rose Darling, our protagonist, starts to uncover a rotten secret about herself and the town's anti-gay conversion camp, which also serves as the main economic boon of Neverton. Everything seems to revolve around Camp Damascus, which boasts a 100% success rate. Rose starts to question how that's possible, and finds herself on a journey of exorcising demons, finding true family, and challenging her faith.

I found that this story had a really honest and beautiful representation not only of what it's like to be queer in a city like Neverton, but what it's like to be different point blank. If you know what you're looking for, it's clear from early on that Rose is autistic, a fact which she confirms later in the narrative. It's rare to see an autistic character find love for themself and from those around them, and this book delivers on that. Rose is loved and appreciated for who she is, and when she finds family in her friends, they don't try to hold her back from doing what she loves. They help her hone the things that make her her, whether it's a stim or a cue card for social situations with facts and conversation starters; they help her benefit from those things instead of encouraging her to tamp them down like her blood family does.

This story also doesn't shy away from the supernatural and horror aspects of the genre, and it does so in a way that feels natural within the narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this book grounds itself in science while still positing that maybe there's some things that science hasn't figured out how to explain yet. It makes the argument that all things are governed by science, even those things that are based in faith and supernaturalism, and it makes it in a convincing and thought-provoking way.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with the stomach for the occasional gore-y look into Hell and demonic possession. It's earned and fits well with the story, but it's definitely present in a way that might not be every reader's cup of tea. If it's yours, though, you'll want to savor that cup and will probably even want a refill.

Thank you to TOR/Forge publishers and NetGalley for access to an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!

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This blew me away, in the best ways. I wasn't sure what I'd think and whether any potential satirical element would undercut my enjoyment of the horror, but this is a PHENOMENAL book, with great characters, over-the-top narration balanced with solid plotting, and a pretty great, cathartic ending. Loved it, and I'll be buying a copy as soon as it's released.

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An autistic lesbian teen discovers the horrific secrets of the ex-gay camp that dominates her small Montana community. An excellent fast-paced novel with humor and poetic justice served HOT.

Tingle knows his stuff. The neck-breaking demons and suchlike supernatural apparitions are not the most frightening part. That honor is reserved for the smiley-face gaslighting that our heroine Rose endures from her parents and the celebrity pastor of the town's prosperity-gospel church. Her family's homophobia stems from the same root as their manipulation or dismissal of her neurodivergence. It's all about alienating you from your body and mind so you can be brainwashed more easily. Very true to life.

I also appreciated how the camp survivors arrive at different perspectives on religion after getting clear of the cult. Whether reclaiming an inclusive Christianity or trusting in empirical investigation, they coexist respectfully and complement each other's strengths.

Even given that teens in Rose's church take two years off during high school for religious studies, she came across as a lot younger than 20.

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Holy shit. I thought this was a slow starter given its length, but when things go off it escalates quickly. I never read any of the author’s work before, I just thought the cover looked cool so I requested the ARC. Camp Damascus viscerally captures how fucked up aversion "therapy" is, how stultifying religion can be, and the difficulty of growing out of something which has defined your entire life.

Some reviews mention it reads like YA, which is true in the sense that it's the first person perspective of a (mentally, emotionally, forced into extended childhood) teenage girl in a cult.

<i>"I love Jesus, I really do, but Jesus would want me to be cool. He’d want Martina to think I’m cool."</i>

Rose has been indoctrinated her entire life, with very controlling parents in a siloed community. She has been emotionally abused by a member of her church LARPing as a therapist, and her autism has gone entirely undiagnosed. She's only had herself and an internet connection. Coupled with what else happened to her, she doesn't start out as the best narrator. But she gets better, which is the point.

<i>"That acknowledgment could arrive after several decades, or it could happen tonight, but the time will come. Eventually, I’ll have to fully contend with this simple fact: the love I was promised is conditional."</i>

The voice gradually matures as Rose becomes less of a puppet and more aware of the issues within her religion.

Some parts of this gave me strong Twilight flashbacks (my own fault for knowing too much). When Rose and her family go apeshit over their "naughty" spaghetti with extra garlic reminded me of Bella speed eating molten microwaved lasagna and a glass of milk, a singularly rancid combination. There's also a bit where Rose has a three part revelation somewhat similar to Bella's. Both have a lot of hot Google action (at least Rose gives us interesting factoids)

There are better comps. But I'm A Cheerleader. Event Horizon. Half-Life.

They should've <spoiler>livestreamed the showdown</spoiler>, I think at least one of them would have thought of it

My only gripe is that the description heavily implies this takes place at Camp Damascus, when we see very little of the camp itself. Then again, I think, in this case, “how things got this way” is a less interesting story than “what are you going to do about it?”

Ultimately, this was an entertaining and cathartic read. Frick Camp Damascus

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CAMP DAMASCUS by Chuck Tingle

Release Date: July 18th, 2023
General Genre: Horror
Subgenre/Themes: Coming-of-Age, Cults, Human Monsters, Psychological, Small Town Horror, Religious Stuff,
Writing Style: Character-Driven, Brisk Pace,

What You Need to Know: It will be interesting to see how readers with different religious backgrounds engage with this book. I was raised agnostic by parents who leaned, atheist. In marriage, I started attending an evangelical church with my husband and eventually identified as a Christian even though I still held to my liberal views on everything and felt like an outcast in some Christian circles for my "radical beliefs". In 2020 while churches were closed, I realized I never wanted to go back. I started "deconstructing" my faith and now I no longer identify as a Christian but I'm still on a faith-based journey to personalize where I stand. This book is extremely important as an in-depth, fictionalized (but realistic) intimate look at the dangers of heterosexual-white-American-evangelical-monotheistic purity culture and their dogmatic beliefs.

My Reading Experience: Triggered. Very, very triggered. In a good way though. It was validating and soul-edifying to read this book knowing that the author behind it all, Dr. Chuck Tingle, the life-giving energy behind 'LOVE IS REAL', knew about the secret bullshit going on behind evangelical closed doors and was exposing it.
I got too close to the kind of evangelical religiosity depicted in this fictional book about a radically successful gay conversion camp. To the average reader untouched by evangelicalism (although, nobody is really untouched since their political activism affects us all) seems too exaggerated to be true except the horror of this book is that it's not. It's not that far removed from the truth and that's what makes this book so important. But it might be hard for some to read.
I was already standing in line for a book like this, the story of a young woman who lives with her parents in a small town. They attend a church that feels like a charismatic, mega-church where the pastor is a bit of a cult of personality and his followers are like his cheerleaders. It made me think of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. These very charming and emotionally manipulative religious leaders able to whip their followers into a frenzy. Has anyone seen the documentary Jesus Camp?
That film is a companion piece to this book.
So the MC of Camp Damascus, this young woman, is happily committed to the same ultra-religious lifestyle as her parents. Very purity culture driven, moralistic, fueled by behavior modification and keeping those sins and any sinful thoughts in check. Even caffeine is frowned upon because it's an unnatural stimulant and capable of altering one's state of being.
Tingle does an excellent job of setting up the dominoes so that once a conflict is introduced and that first domino is tapped, the rest of them start a chain reaction until we're speeding toward the climax/resolution.
I don't want to get too far into spoiler territory, but there are some exciting reader-discovery moments where the force behind the success of the gay conversion camp is revealed and I applaud Tingle for flipping the script on a classic (and favorite!) horror trope. Very clever. I loved it.
I think the temptation here for some horror readers will be to compare this book to the viral success of his "Tinglers", his erotic fiction but I believe this book is Tingle's attempt to build a bridge into the mainstream horror market so the message will reach a broader audience. It's my hope that Camp Damascus will land in the right readers' hands.

Final Recommendation: Camp Damascus does read on the YA spectrum of horror but it's written to appeal to all ages. I enjoyed it. I think it's important and I hope that it will inspire more books like it to rise up and draw attention to the horrors of heterosexual-white-American-evangelical-monotheistic purity culture and their dogmatic beliefs. Especially concerning the LBGTQIA+ community.

Comps: Jesus Camp (documentary), Pray Away (documentary), They/Them (Blumhouse horror movie w/Kevin Bacon), Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

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What an interesting book! I didn’t know what to expect with the authors other books being so, well you know. But I found myself really enjoying this book. Ominous and satisfying.

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Camp Damascus follows Rose, a young adult in Neverton, Montana where nearly everyone follows the teaching of a religious prophet. Within Neverton is Camp Damascus, the most effective gay conversion camp in the country.

Strange things begin to happen around Rose, and a edge-of-your-seat thrill ride begins.

It's hard to talk about this book without giving much away. There is so much packed into this story that is so fun to discover for yourself as you read.

What I can say is that this book is just SO inventive, scary, fun, and beautiful. It's hard to believe that this is Tingle's horror debut - it's really incredible.

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Rose Darling is a paragon of faith, a reverent daughter to her parents and the Kingdom of the Pines church. She lives in a seemingly idyllic town of Neverton, Montana, home of Camp Damascus, the most successful gay conversion camp in the country. Their methods are mysterious, but the results speak for themselves. Rose attends high school parties that serve root beer and eschews secular media. She is definitely NOT falling for her new secular friend, Martina.

The plot of Camp Damascus draws the reader in with the same gravitational force as its namesake. While the body horror is starkly vivid, it is appropriate for young adult horror fans and beyond. The conflicts between Rose and her devout family are like the plucking of an overwrought guitar string. It is the horror movie soundtrack to real-life family rejection, religious homophobia, and scared straight sermons. Readers will root for Rose whose satisfying character arc propels the plot to an immensely cathartic conclusion.

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Wow! I'm familiar with this author's previous work, and this quite an impressive pivot. Tons of fun while taking on the horrors of extremism in an altogether compassionate way, which is not surprising to those of us who follow Chuck on social media.

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Camp Damascus was a fabulous book. It was a horror book that also takes on the horrors of the real world and those faced by people in the LGBTQ+ community. A gay conversion camp with "the most successful conversion rate," the kids who go in do not come out the same people. They also come out with a demon now tethered to them that keeps them from thinking "bad" thoughts. This book was so darn good, but also infuriating, because there are real conversion camps in this country. It was so poignant and so timely and just the perfect read.

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Wow! What a ride! A fun, creepy, and empowering story that shows compassion for all of the characters--even for the villains.
This would be a great nominee for the Alex Awards.

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Thanks to Netgalley and Tor Nightfire for the eARC.

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle starts in a completely innocuous way. A beautiful, sunny day. Kids hanging out at the water...

But there's something off. And Tingle does such a great job of making moments that should be wholesome something disturbing and anxiety-inducing.

It's some powerhouse writing that leads to genuine terror as the books progress with the story of Rose Darling, a devout 20 year old, realizing there's something mething going on in the small town of Neverton.

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I absolutely loved this one. I knew Chuck Tingle could write but I was completely blown away but his absurdist horror adventure quest. Sign me up for more.

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