Monday, December 28, 2009

"Depraved", (Leisure Fiction), by Bryan Smith

“Depraved” is a jet-fueled tale that begins fast and mean and never lets up. Smith blends multiple plot-lines together seamlessly, pulling readers into his characters' sprints for survival. This isn't just a recipe for horror “shock and awe”; however, as Smith crafts characters that provoke empathy, pity, even disgust...but are three-dimensional regardless, which pulls readers even deeper down this dark and twisted hole.

Jessica Sloan has stepped into a nightmare. A damaged woman trying to remake her life, she's fallen victim to a sadistic rapist who assaulted her when she tried to buy a used car from him. Now she's driving out to the middle of nowhere, the used car salesman locked in the trunk, screaming. He raped her. Beat her. Daddy taught his little girl to be nobody's victim, so now she's going to take something back from her assailant... something he can't ever replace.

The only problem? Jessica has picked a spot for revenge that lies near the isolated rural town of Hopkins Bend, where something much worse than a simple rapist lies in wait. For generations, a family has borne the blight of a curse that has turned its descendants into twisted, mutated mockeries of humanity, depraved in every way imaginable.

That, and this darkness blights Hopkins Bend and the rest of its townspeople in nonphysical ways undetectable by the eye alone. The people of Hopkins Bend hunger. For many, many things, and the taste of human flesh is only one of their depraved appetites. To survive, Jessica and others caught in this whirling cesspool must go to nightmarish lengths, and that begs the question: is survival worth what they may become?

It would be a mistake to dismiss this novel as a simple “boobs, blood, gore and more” offering. Smith utilizes these grotesqueries to do what horror should do: reveal the inner fire that pushes some humans to survive, as well as expose the darkness lying within everyone; a darkness that often needs only one turn of an awful key to bloom in full.

Also, there is a higher wit at work here. In the midst of the novel's mad rush, Smith displays a circular irony, sporting a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, too. Finally, though it may sound odd, Smith shows admirable restraint in the depiction of the atrocities he inflicts upon his characters. For sure, “Depraved” is explicit, shocking, and bloody. Often, however, Smith leaves a characters' fate up to the reader's imagination, which can be more effective than gratuitous violence alone.

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