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Sex, Death, and Rock n' Roll
on July 22, 2008
In a sleepy little town, evil is bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. Women are getting violently raped, dead bodies are rising from their slabs in the morgue to walk out, vicious murders are taking place, and strange creatures, resembling large wolves are stalking the darkening abyss of the night.
Meanwhile, a man named Daniel Fargo has the answer to the riddle; he understands that what the sleepy town of Big Rock is against isn't man made carnage, but something of the supernatural. Yes, Virginia, werewolves do exist. Now it's a race against time as the enigmatic Fargo tracks down the beasts, waiting for the day he might avenge himself. But, he's going to need help. In order to destroy the evil that lurks in the night, he must confide in the ever skeptical sheriff Arlin Hurley. However, Hurley is loath to believe the truth behind the myth and as he disregards Fargo, the murders persist. What will happen to Big Rock if the werewolves are not contained? What will become of our world as their evil seed spreads? Welcome to Big Rock --- population decreasing.
The wonderful world of Ray Garton's self styled horror is back in full force. The usual emphasis on sex, violence, and gory death has not been overturned in favor of the lighter side, but has darkened over the years, presenting the latest Garton, Ravenous with a bleak atmosphere complemented by the description of ever present drizzling rain, cold dark woods, and creaky abandoned houses festooned with mummified corpses. The ceaseless violence and mayhem begin immediately, never allowing the reader to awaken from the nightmare, never giving pause in the tale for a respite. Indeed, Garton has increased his love of mutilation and gore, presenting some scenes that are just too melancholy for modern audiences. For instance, the werewolves are not prey to discrimination as they happily feast on pregnant women and innocent children. Yes Garton, we want the violence, but not the sadness. This time, the horror genre has simply gone too far. Get depressed.
Garton's writing style is conducive to the atmosphere of dread, describing the scenes in vivid detail, entwining the language of horror with the emotions of the characters and the never ending hunger of a beast from legend. Garton chooses to allow his characters to narrate, alternating chapters between the protagonists and villains, giving each a distinctive voice and aura. This is perhaps one of the greatest elements in the story's success, since the language allows the tale to truly come to life, engulfing the reader in a story, that while unrealistic, is more than believable once the vivid language starts to paint a scene of death.
The characters are also a bleak lot, falling into yawning chasms of depression. They act appropriately horrified, saddened, and disgusted, making them become human. Garton even threw in a genuine love story that brings two characters vibrantly alive and grants the audience a much needed dose of sentimentality, allowing these specific characters to become central to the unfolding drama and gain our hearts along the way. Hurley, the disbelieving sheriff also proves to be a likeable, albeit short sited protagonist. Since most of the drama is told through his perspective we get to know and love Hurley as well making him a central character in our circle of protagonists.
However, despite the few characters mentioned above, most of the personalities in this novel only serve a meager purpose: future werewolf chow. Yes folks, they are there to get eaten over the course of several pages and their screams are intended to drag more sleepy eyed werewolf chow from their surprisingly insecure homes. The secondary characters are not totally devoid of humanity, and we, the collective audience, are still able to light the spark of empathy for them. The reader just wishes that before they were eaten, we could get to know them a little better. The human element is not missing, its just not Garton's best interpretation.
Ravenous is surprisingly imaginative in its modern retelling of the old wolf man themes. Garton, in a desperate attempt to get sex into all of his novels, has made lycanthropy transmittable only by sexual contact and since most of his characters are surprisingly licentious, it doesn't take the virus long to spread. See, you should always practice safe sex! Likewise, the werewolves are not just monsters baying at the moon (although there is a lot of that) nor are they the sympathetic souls who chain themselves alone in a room for the protection of mankind. They are cold, hard blooded killers that tell a surprisingly good story as they are allowed to narrate their own chapters, disclosing the secret thoughts of a lycanthrope for the reader's entertainment. As with all of his tales, Garton takes an ancient legend and gives it a modern twist making the familiar take on new dimensions.
As with Garton's preoccupation with violence, the sex scenes in this book have gone beyond traditional Garton and have become disturbingly violent taking the aura of despair to whole new levels. However, these scenes are not as frequent as the scenes of death and carnage, but nonetheless, they make the entire atmosphere a little too disturbing to be entirely enjoyable.
The plot is well structured and tension-filled, keeping the readers on the edges of their collective seats, forever trying to guess the woeful ending. But, to no avail! The plot twists, following shadowed corridors of violence, death, and lycanthropy leading the reader on a dangerous journey through a what-if scenario of gnashing fangs and great, silver lupine eyes staring out of the dark, rain soaked night. The conclusion races forward, delivering a shocking ending and more than one death leaving the reader to gasp as the very last sentence says it all, delivering a somber prediction for the future. The reader will be more than satisfied and will feel a prickling of curiosity, wondering just what will happen to the world after the last page.
Conclusion: Despite a few flaws, such as the rampant gore and some shallow characterization, Ravenous proves, in the end, to be worth the minor irritations. The protagonists grab our hearts and attention, the drama is all consuming, and the tension is rather addicting. The story will leave the reader breathless, waiting for more, staying awake all night, blood shot eyes riveted to the page, cups of discarded coffee strewn over the room, dawn seeping in around the window curtains. Fast paced, riveting, and entertaining, Ravenous is a novel to die for. Sweet dreams. To sleep, perchance to die.