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And now for the review. At the very beginning of Episodes of Violence, we meet the blood-thirsty trio responsible for most of the action, Sage, her boyfriend Daemon, and their best friend Bobby. It all starts in the opening paragraph...
"The barn-shaped mailbox exploded as the baseball bat smashed through it. Various-sized jagged pieces of red plastic scattered into the air, a few pinging off the hockey mask Sage was wearing."
Mailbox baseball was just the beginning...
"What (Daemon) really wanted was to do something that wouldn't be forgotten. Something that would horrify the town and baffle the law."
Bernstein has always exercised an "in your face" writing style, but never more effectively than in his latest effort as he delivers again and again on the book's title with a vivid writing technique that's more akin to watching a movie than reading a book.
"A naked woman with tattoos covering her chest, arms and thighs lay on the stained and torn leather couch. Her nose, eyebrows, and ears contained hoop-shaped piercings and each of her nipples had a thick bar through it. Her legs clearly hadn't been shaved in some time, the hairs like a layer of fuzz, and her bush sprouted up like the head of a huge broccoli floret. She looked at Sage and then at Daemon, giving them a weak smile and wave. 'Come to party?'"
"He braced himself as much as possible for the ringing his ears were going to feel, knowing it wouldn't matter. He pulled the trigger with his sweat-slicked finger. The gun roared and jumped in his hands. Baldie's crotch vanished in a spray of fabric, flesh, and blood that decorated the grass behind him."
And that just begins to scratch the surface of what you'll find inside Episodes of Violence.
I've never been disappointed by anything I've read by David, but truthfully, I don't believe I've ever enjoyed myself more. There is more that just an ultra-violent dissertation here. There's a story with depth, characters we can love and empathize with, and others we can love to hate.
As long as you don't mind sex, blood, and guts, I can all but guarantee that you'll love this book.
Episodes of Violence is available in paperback and e-book formats from Sinister Grin Press.
From the author's bio. David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C, and now Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.
Amber goes off to college and joins a sorority. Everything seems to be going well until something heinous happens to her one night at a party. Her life is flipped on its head and she is left picking up the pieces back home. The town she left is not the same, though. Amber’s hometown is riddled with savage violence. People are being slaughtered in the streets. There aren’t any leads for the police to follow. The violence shows up at her door and tears her life apart. The only thing Amber can rely on is the darkness that dwells deep inside her.
David Bernstein gets the college life and small town horror. David creates characters that come to life. They feel real. They feel genuine. The story unfolds perfectly. I kept turning the page because I had to know what was going to happen next. I had to know how it all would end. David Bernstein doesn’t disappoint. Once you start reading this book, you can’t stop. The conclusion is awesome!
Episodes of Violence isn’t for the faint of heart or the squeamish. This book is filled with violence, sex, death, blood, and gore. There are a couple of scenes that will make you wince and bite your fingernails. I hope there is a sequel to Episodes of Violence. To be honest, I didn’t want it to end.
". . . Some individuals enjoyed golf or movies or collecting things. She liked to ruin stuff and watch people's happiness dwindle . . . "
Bernstein does a fantastic job of showing us the progression this group takes from being the everyday bullies, and how growing into aimless adults, their focus changes. I could honestly feel how this shift could occur so naturally in a small town, where these three friends stay bonded--all the while their rage and violent nature grows. The transition from being the "outcasts" to the "predators" was quite realistic as we went along with them on their journey.
" . . . They were an evolving evil that would grow like a tumor and wreak havoc upon all in their path. This was only the beginning . . . "
I felt this part of the novel showcased some of Bernstein's strongest work. His characterization here, down to the alliance between the group, was shown off so effectively, that there was never any doubt in my mind that they were quite capable of all the graphic scenes and deeds depicted.
And these things are what turned them on.
". . . The group's dark side had emerged and it felt good . . . "
When we are switched over to a new character, Amber, it felt as though a switch had been thrown, for me. While interesting enough on its own, I just felt that it paled in comparison to the character build up of our first group, and temporarily slowed the momentum of the book. At this point, I began to figure out how the rest of the book might go.
". . . Taking lives is natural . . . There will always be a variety of people, and all are needed for a society to work, including its killers . . . without good there is no evil . . . "
The action and gory scenes of the book were a five-star rating in my mind; however, the second part of the novel--being more emotional and less blatantly destructive--gave off a more introspective vibe. While both of these halves were brought together nicely in the end, the parts with Amber seemed to put "on hold" the main action we started with; thus, halting the rough and rapid pacing for a time.
". . . I was hurt, but I wasn't destroyed . . . "
Overall, I feel that Bernstein has some incredible characterization and vivd, jaw-dropping scenes in this novel. Although the unevenness of the pacing threw me off for a while, the end brought back much of the dynamics that I enjoyed initially.