Castaways – A Terrifying Romp with Some Horrifying Cryptids


Missing Links Enjoy Human Buffet!

Missing Links Enjoy Human Buffet!

I spent a lot of time in airports and airplanes last week which means I got to catch up on some reading.  I’m not one of those guys that can whip out the laptop in a public place and crank out some pages (and don’t get me started on the people who feel it necessary to include me in on their cell phone conversation by talking like they’re in a crowded stadium.  Use your inside voice, people).  I always cross my fingers that I have a good book to read during all this downtime.  There’s nothing worse than finding yourself with four hours to kill, and the book you’re reading sucks out loud..  


Fortunately, I had a great book, Castaways.  I was first introduced to author Brian Keene with his book The Rising – an apocalyptic story with a twist, intelligent zombies.  It is an edge-of-your-seat gore fest that has you wincing and squirming and wanting more.  The follow-ups, City of the Dead and Dead Sea  have more gore and squirm-appeal (although the zombies go back to mindless flesh eaters in DS).  Keene has established himself as a master of the zombie genre.

Castaways is not a zombie book, but it is a shudder-a-second thrill ride.  Imagine the TV show Survivor with a bunch of carnivorous missing-links running around making meals out of the contestants, and you have the premise of this superb horror novel.   A warning to parents who visit this blog looking for young adult novels for their kids, this is not for young adults.  There are explicit rape scenes, and graphic passages of people being eaten.  This is not for the faint of heart or for the kiddies.  I’m not a fan of books with rape scenes as a rule, but if there is such a thing as approaching that sort of thing with great care and sensitivity, Keene does it.  Rape is horrific, and no one should ever have to go through it.  I found myself hurting for the women who were subject to it in the book.  In fact as I was reading this portion of the book to myself, a relative asked me why I was so angry.  Apparently I had a noticeable scowl.  As a storyteller, it would have been dishonest of Keene to leave it out. 

Cryptohiles will recognize the cryptids in this book (a cryptid is an unknown animal), or the cryptid they most closely resemble, I should say.  It is the Orang Pendek.  They are short bipedal apes that have been seen but not scientifically documented on the island of Sumatra.   Keene gives a great non-intrusive history of the urban myth that is surrounding these animals. Granted, he gives them a viciousness that as far as I know has never been reported before, but given the behavior of Travis the chimp in Connecticut a few weeks ago, it is highly plausible.  I am a crypto-nerd, and I have to say I loved this element of the story. 

This book will also speak to one seemingly unreachable group that seemingly rarely visits the literary world, The Howard Stern fans.  If you know the show, you know the on-air brainless duo of Richard and Sal. They make an extremely satisfying cameo in this book.  Spoiler Alert – Their appearance is satisfying because they both get eaten by the short bipeds.  Richard is a dumb loveable hick on the show and in the book, and you do feel kind of bad when he gets torn to shreds, but I found myself relishing Sal’s delicious end.  Yea, Orang Pendeks! 

If you are a horror fan, crypto fan, or Howard Stern fan, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.  Keene has a great fast paced writing style with gritty, realistic dialogue that hooks you in and keeps you turning the page.  Every thumb up (including the freakish third thumb that I keep in a jar by my nightstand)!

TrueBlood – Review

I was pleasantly surprised to see the first episode of TrueBlood for rent at my local Blockbuster. It is a promotional copy which means it is watermarked with HBO’s logo in the middle of the screen, and annoying reminders pop up at the bottom of the screen every 15 minutes reminding you that your watching a promotional copy. But beyond these technical annoyances, I am happy to report that it is yet another excellent original TV series created by the folks at HBO. In case you haven’t heard, the premise of the program is that vampires have come out of the coffin, so to speak. They are undead and living among us. They claim not to be the blood thirsty killers we’ve all grown to loathe and fear. True they need blood to survive, but thanks to a synthetic blood invented by the Japanese, they have no reason to suck the blood of humans. The show documents the vampires’ struggle to fit into society. They are even fighting for a vampire equal rights bill in congress.

TrueBlood is Buffy the Vampire Slayer on steroids. There’s a plucky waitress with psychic abilities and a mean left hook. There’s a pale and brooding vampire who takes an immediate liking to the pretty blonde waitress who saves his life. There’s a supporting cast that includes a foul-mouthed best friend, an over-sexed brother, a bartender who owns a bar and an unrequited love for his head waitress. And there are baddies – rednecks with an addiction for vampire blood.

I’m not a big vampire fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Be warned, this is a series for adults, there is sex, nudity, blood, and violence. It is not for the kiddies. The show is based on novelist Charlaine Harris’ world of vampires.

TrueBlood – 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Premiers September 7, at 9:00 PM EST

*** Don’t forget to take the Vampire Poll