Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Afraid by Jack Kilborn

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn - Cover Art
by Jack Kilborn

I had read on J.A. Konrath's (AKA Jack Kilborn's) blog that when he sat down to write Afraid, he was setting out to craft the scariest story of all time. If it seems like a lofty goal, that's because it is. But it's also a goal that seemingly every author of horror fiction would set for himself when writing any story. But then he went on to say that many people thought he succeeded, and that was enough to intrigue me.

What can I say? I'm easy.

When a black helicopter crash lands in the small rural town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, the citizens are anything but safe. It was carrying a squadron of scientifically-enhanced soldiers who believe that they have arrived at their intended destination and quickly set out on their mission: kill, maim and destroy.

An entire town against a small handful of soldiers wouldn't be any kind of a fight no matter how well-trained and well-armed the soldiers are, but most of the townsfolk don't realize they're fighting until it's too late. They are viciously slaughtered one-by-one as the soldiers work their way towards their final objective.

One word that you will see in virtually every review of this novel is "relentless", and with good reason. The action and bloodshed kick in on page one and it doesn't stop until the finale. The scenes are brief, switching from one to another at a breakneck pace, always leaving you breathlessly anticipating what comes next.

The core group of our heroes survive explicit scenes of torture that are not for the squeamish, and although they are not as well-realized of characters as you might find in other, longer works, the fact that they are as well drawn as they are is astounding, given the speed of the plot.

It's a fantastic and fast read, even if it does stretch the limits of believability on occasion--but there aren't many genre entries that don't.

But the question on the table is: is this the most frightening story ever written? It's certainly one of the more exciting horror tales I've read in a long while, but thrills don't equal chills. I'm inundated with horror media every day, which has probably dulled my senses to some extent, but I can't honestly say that I was ever frightened while reading this book. But then again, I can't remember the last time a book actually frightened me. I wish I could.

I will tell you this, though: if a helicopter ever crashes in my backyard, THEN I will be afraid. Very, very afraid.

Well worth the cover price, hipsters.

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