Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rabbit Heart by Barry Reese

This is the first book I've read from "New Pulp" writer Barry Reese. It's impressive. Reese is a full-time librarian with a wide range of influences. He's already had countless short stories and other novels (which you can't find at my local Megabookstore, dammit!) published. What intrigued me to purchase this one was a podcast interview he gave where he stressed the personal nature of this book.
Let me make one thing clear: this is not a novel for those with tender sensibilities. Reese isn't the least bit afraid to go for the throat in his descriptions of violence. I was particularly sickened by a graphic account of rape and murder toward the end of Rabbit Heart. In all fairness, I think he wanted the reader to be repulsed by this scene; to feel the utter horror of the taking of an innocent life. If that was the case, he succeeded beyond all intents.
Rabbit Heart begins with the murder of a young couple in a cemetery. Two kids, barely out of high school and pumped up on hormones, decide to party. Unfortunately for them a creature known as a lich, has been recently awakened. The lich, a demonic sex carnivore, makes short work of them before looking for more prey.
The novel moves to Fiona Chapman, a young dark-haired girl whose just been attacked by a maniac at a summer camp. Fiona miraculously survives only to discover she's been reborn as a member of the Furious Host. The Furious Host is an incarnation of the Wild Hunt of legend, demonic creatures who rode through the lands slaughtering any one in their path. The Hunt is led by Edric, who has decided to reincarnate the Host in a battle to the death. Points are scored by how many humans they kill, but bonus points are awarded when one of the Host kills another member of it.
Fiona can shift into her "archetype" form as needed: a small femme fatale clothed in bandages, one eye covered by a patch, and wielding a black machete. After being informed of her destiny by Edric, she rejects him and everything he represents. Instead, she vows to take out the entire Host, starting with the rampaging lich.
The action shifts to the college town of Milledgeville, Georgia, where the sinister lich, who calls himself "Uhrl the Unconquered", is finding plenty of victims. Fiona begins to track him down. She's assisted by Ascott Keane, who claims to be a descendant of an occult investigator from the 1930's. Fiona learns that Uhrl is looking for something in Milledgeville which he must not find....
Reese is good at showing the action from a variety of characters. You may not like being in the head of a horny college student, but he forces you to see the world from those eyes. It's a difficult trick, showing multiple viewpoints, but he neatly pulls it off.
My only criticism with the novel is the countless cultural references with which he loads it. It's bad enough when he wants to show an emotion by quoting "Solitary Man", but comparing a police officer to Denzel Washington? Enough with the cultural short-cuts!
A good book in what I hope will be a new series. Now if I can just find a copy of his Tales of Ki-Gor....

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for the review! I definitely appreciate the time you put into it and I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

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