Overall: From the first sentence, The Beast oozes atmosphere. The imagery feels biblical, yet twisted through a Clive Barker kaleidoscope. From the statue of the Beast itself, to its projected images of some type of Hell, it was very unsettling. There’s some strong writing here, and a promising start to a novella. As a note before going further, critiquing a piece of a larger work does leave us (naturally) with questions and gaps. So some of this may be answered as you continue the larger work.
Tone+Setting: Might be my favorite part of the piece, the way in which you establish the world we’re now a part of. It is bleak, poisonous and terrifying. You’re pretty consistent in this world-building, with the Beast as the hellish center, and the radius of rot expanding out from there. The ongoing commentary from the Beast also sets up a lurking threat behind what we can already see. I do wonder at the when and where of this world. It seems like we are set in the past, a world where the attention of society as a whole isn’t on this growing statue, plus the use of chisels and rope to “attack” the threat. You also hint at a boundary, where life is a little better outside of the effects of the Beast. I wonder how far the impact extends, and why we don’t see larger concern; has society collapsed and if so, why? Humans are still the “apex force,” but we seem a bit absent.
Characters: Gil works well as a lens to view the work against the beast, and establish the chiselers as the protagonists. However, in the little we’ve seen, he’s a bit of the workman arch-type. His motivations seem to be anger and a simple sense of duty “He never asked to be the Foreman. If he had been asked, he would have laughed and spat in the face of whoever dared to try and foist responsibility on him. But he was the last one left alive, the last of the old guard, such as they were.” I want to understand a bit more of what drives him, which is more than possible in a novella, if we are only scratching the surface. The Chancellor also fits an arch-type, so more depth would need to be added to make him compelling and Clare feels like a brief afterthought. It is actually the daughter that intrigues me the most. There’s something sort of chilling about her (feigned?) innocence in the face of something so horrifying.
Plot: A ton of promise about where this story can go. There’s a lot that happens in this brief excerpt (establishing the Beast, a battle on the ground, Helman’s death, introducing the Chancellor and Clare) so there’s a good foundation to build on. It may help to narrow the focus at first though, and orientate the reader in the world. If you have the “luxury” of novella length, you can probably get away with stretching this out, as long as the opening still draws in your readers.