The reading for 02 May 2016 is Off Season by Jack Ketchum. I am reading it in the Kindle ebook version. From my past reading of Ketchum, I expect to be entertained, as in shocked. His work can push the boundaries of terror and horror; those with a weak stomach have been warned.
After reading a free sample chapter, I purchased the book in early March. I did not finish it until 02 May because some of the gruesome descriptions just stopped me. I then went to other books on my TBR shelf. But this genre always draws me back.
In the first few pages we have almost midnight in a dark forest with a female being pursued by a gang of “wildings”, a group of dirty, uncivilized pre-teens whose conversational skills are limited to laughs and animal sounds. We don’t know the woman’s name, but we can be confident she is young, nubile, accepting of death as her ultimate fate, and pretty much getting weaker and weaker as she approaches the point where she will either leap into the sea and die or be ravaged by the wildings and die. Not much of and end for the graduate from MIT who was in spy training for the CIA and would have been an ambassador to the UN. Or maybe not. But everyone has to have some kind of back story and that was one possibility.
Having finished her off in the first chapter (maybe) we go to some scene setting with a deserted cabin in the woods with yet again another young, nubile female who is preparing said cabin in preparation for the arrival of a group of friends. Without being introduced to the group, I predict there will be some young, nubile types in the group. Nobody bothers ugly people. There is some sort of lesson here.
There are quotes early in the book that reflect Ketchum’s writing style, like this one: “Every so often life reminded you of how grimy and carnal a creature man could be if he set himself to it.” (loc. 540-541). In the context of the story, this is Marjie reflecting on overeating during a stop to the cabin where Carla is waiting and preparing for the group’s arrival. However, the quoted reflection is portable, feel free to bring it along to the many grim scenes that follow.
The surprises (possible spoilers) happen with the abrupt terminations of several characters that appear throughout the book. Of course these are the “good guys.” We don’t care if villains die; it is part of their job description. And if some of the good guys die, that is part of the story also, but with many writers we can see it coming; it is predictable. Not so with Ketchum. I found myself occasionally stopping and thinking “Really! This can’t be happening this way!” Which is why I like to read Ketchum.
The action starts suddenly with a home invasion. It is non-stop action from that point until the end. The action is violent, crude, cruel, and vicious. I will not give it to my teenage son. But there is more. After a somewhat disappointing ending, Ketchum writes about his struggle to get the novel published in the version that he originally wrote. That chapter is worth the price of admission (book).