Sparrow Rock. I finished it awhile ago, and just remembered that I didn't write about it here.
First, I want to say that I really like Nate Kenyon's work in general. I would say among the paperback horror writers, Kenyon and Brian Keene both put out consistently good stories. I am rarely disappointed by either and Sparrow Rock was right up there with some of the best of Stoker Award Winning Keene's work.
Here is the basic plot of this postapocalyptic horror novel. A group of 6 high school kids go to one of the kid's grandfather's bomb shelters one night to hang out and a nuclear war breaks out. The kids are safe for the time being, but things slowly start to go from bad to worse. The problems are two-fold. The first is that it was not just pure luck that these kids ended up in the bomb shelter the exact night that the world as we know it was to be destroyed. And second, it seems that the world is now being taken over by a super-insect, which, once one gets into you, an army of them take your body over and turn you into a insect controlled zombie.
Our protagonist is Pete, the most emotionally troubled of the group. We watch the events unfold through his eyes as the kids go from just trying to stay put, to making an escape attempt, running for a bunker out West. Like all good horror stories, Sparrow Rock combines pure terror with a coming of age theme. Also, it is open ended; we only know the survivors fate up to a point and the zombie inducing insects have only been appeased for a short time, they are still out there wrecking havoc.
Appeal: fast-paced, coming-of-age, zombies, nuclear annihilation, killer insects, Nazis (yes Nazis, read it to see why this is important), survival story, familiar characters, fear inducing, one point of view, lots of flashbacks as we see into Pete's life before the book begins, a surprise twist at the end in regards to one of the characters, discussions of mental illness, familial dysfunction, storyline switches off and on between expository/character development and action sequences, realistic feeling horror despite the obviously unreal zombie inducing insects.
Three Words That Describe This Book: apocalyptic, killer insects, terrifying
For another review of Sparrow Rock, use this link over at Dark Scribe Magazine.
Sparrow Rock is a great example of the currently popular subgenre I am beginning to call Apocalyptic Horror where it isn't bad enough that the world as we know it is being destroyed, but there are supernatural evils stalking us too. This horror subgenre really plays off of two distinct fears: world annihilation and (pick your) monsters chasing us down. Even the most jaded horror fan cannot help but notice a palpable fear as these two terror inducing situations collide.
Other books that are in this subgenre and are popular right now are The Passage by Justin Cronin and Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Of course, don't forget the father of this subgenre, Stephen King's The Stand.
This is a less literary version of The Passage (which I will post about in the coming days), but surprisingly similar. Both have a reluctant hero who needs to get over his personal family issues before he can take the lead and try to save the group and mankind from an apocalyptic monster. But, while the Passage is a 700 page, hard cover, first installment of a trilogy, Sparrow Rock is a stand alone, mass market title at around 300 pages. I would give Sparrow Rock to more traditional horror readers who are unsure of settling into Cronin's wildly popular, and much longer, novel.
Sparrow Rock also has aspects of the zombie novel too. The aforementioned Brian Keene's The Rising would be a good zombie option for fans of Sparrow Rock. Also the brand new title Feed by Mira Grant is a great choice here too.
Finally, Sparrow Rock reminded me of one of my all-time favorite horror novels, The Ruins by Scott Smith. Both titles move at a similar pace and involve a group of young adults finding themselves accidentally in a situation where they are stranded and forced into a struggle for basic survival while also being stalked by the most unusual of monsters. Anyone who likes Sparrow Rock will love The Ruins and vice versa.
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