Off Season, by Jack Ketchum

3 Stars

Off Season

There’s something about warmer weather that makes me want to read horror. Perhaps, I just want evidence to support my insistence that camping is a miserable idea.

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Off Season certainly provides this, as Ketchum tells a tale of a weekend getaway gone horribly wrong, when joined by incestuous cave-dwelling savages. While the scenes of gore are certainly chilling, the character development and plot are both pretty bland. There are no twists to this story. It is exactly as advertised on the back cover and no more. Furthermore, not a single death broke my heart or left me feeling anything but mildly ill, because I didn’t care about any of these people.

I may not be a seasoned reader of the genre, but overall, I found Ketchum’s Off Season to be gruesomely fun. Other horror writers aim to get inside your head and mind rape you with their stories. You’re not intended to read Stephen King’s It and develop a fear of clowns; instead you fear the ancient evil inhabiting the world and the people in it, including yourself. Ketchum is a bit more to the point, both with his plotline and word count. I find that truly brilliant horror is tedious by nature, due to the aforementioned mental invasion. This title can be read in a few days and forgotten, despite some of the more cringe-worthy moments. Nick Cutter’s The Troop, however, still haunts me. If you want to be scared, without true commitment, Off Season is a good choice.

Review Word Count: 250

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The Troop, by Nick Cutter

4 Stars

the troopEvery five years or so, I decide I’m capable of reading horror…

… and I am always wrong.

For some reason, I read that Stephen King found The Troop horrifying and immediately thought “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” In fact, this title reminded me a great deal of a King novel, particularly through characterization and imagery.

“The sky was salted with remote stars. The beach was a bonelike strip unfurling to the shoreline. The sea advanced up the shore with a series of minute sucking inhales.” pg. 111

For realz, y’all, he made a beach sound eerie. As far as the brand of horror, though, this is mostly a creepy crawly, mindfuck story.

“11:42 Subject blindly consuming own stripped flesh.” pg. 151
“The… stomach split soundlessly, like Saran Wrap, groin to rib cage.” pg. 167

Unlike King, Cutter’s side tangents were brief and rare. However, while they served a purpose in characterization and story line, I felt the animal abuse anecdotes were excessive. I admit it. I skipped the kitten story. I saw the word “kitten” and the word “Borax” and nope. Flip, flip, flip. It was at least five pages long. Dude, not necessary.We get it. The kid’s fucked up.

In addition to the animal abuse, the central plot of this tale is the horrifying first person deaths of several 14-year-old boys that are written like 12-year-olds. It was tough for this substitute teacher to take, but Cutter’s mission was certainly accomplished. I’ll never go camping again. Though, there was never much of danger of that anyway.

Review Word Count: 249