*****Trigger warning for the following: Body horror, apocalypses, rape, pedophaelia, gore, blood, torture, death of a child and a parent*******
I always talk about my love for SFF and comics on this blog but horror sometimes falls by the wayside here. I’ve been reading horror since I was 13 (10 if you include Under the Hawthorne Tree. If you know, you know.). I am ashamed to say that despite my love of horror, I have never read a Jonathan Janz book. Until now!
Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They’ve discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA. These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?
I haven’t read a book that felt this cinematic in a very long time. Everything literally felt like I was sat watching it on screen instead of a book. This is a grim, dark world that is both familiar yet totally alien. Not a single moment gives you relief from the constant threats this world throws at it’s characters and for a post apocalyptic novel that I read during a global pandemic, I had great fun.
One things that struck me was Janz’s wonderful ability for world building. This is a world that felt lived in and it certanily felt like he was questioning just what lengths he could really push the misery of the characters lives. And then how could he make it worse. He honestly has such a knack for writing a world like this, like trying to pitch a pandemic level apocalypse that turns people into vampires and werewolves as a novel is just so unique. I honestly am mostly obsessed with the concept and I really enjoyed it.
Now as we all know, horror is hinged on atmosphere. This book does it times ten. This world is bleak, it’s unforgiving and you will die in seconds if you don’t have your eye on the ball. Like honestly Janz does not care about the wellbeing of his characters. Dez, our protagonist, literally escapes a bunch of cannibals and watches 2 people being killed and consumed, he finds shelter (and popcorn!) only for his peace to be ruined and his life nearly stolen at by a grieving werewolf. Noone at all catches a break here.
Random thing I really liked about the myriad of monsters of this world is the werewolves. They aren’t transformed or alered by moonlight but ususally an emotional trigger. Dez does let us know that is seems to be mostly anger or rage of some kind that sets off the transformation of human to wolf. However w do meet one later that changes as a result of the crushing grief at the loss of his wife. I really liked that since it is an interesting modern take.
Janz is truly brutal to his characters though. Dez has been through almightly hell when we meet him. Mostly as a result of the post traumatic stress of the loss of his son, he lives in this constant state of guilt. One small complaint I really didn’t like was the brief hint that he had a form of possible OCD but he never bothered to get it checked. I know it’s the apocalypse but this is distinctly described as a moment of contemplation when he thinks of the past. Outside of that, all the characters need a cup of tea that isn’t secretly full of wasps.
The horror is really dialled up to ten, the characters are interesting but what took the last star was the plot and structure of the book. We had what promised to be every other chapter told in the first person by Dez. That only lasts for a few chapters and it is forgotten about. The framing device is the journal he keeps and those chapters are his entries, granted he can’t write them all the time but the lack of consistency with it was a bit jarring.
Thank you to both Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for an early copy of this book for review. This was highly enjoyable and I look forward to reading more of Janz work. Thanks for checking in everyone! happy reading! ‘The Raven’ is out now.