The Totem
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The Totem

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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  748 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Slowly, bizarre events grip the tiny mountain community of Potter's Field, Wyoming. Cattle are mutilated. Animals become savage. Children go insane. Townspeople are found without faces. And one man must confront the evil behind the hideous events, an evil that is all too human and deadly. From the bestselling author of Desperate Measures. HC: Fawcett.
236 pages
Published 1981 by Pan Books (first published 1979)
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Adam Light
This was a pretty gripping horror novel from thriller writer David Morrell. Too bad he dudn't dabble more in the genre, but his writing was engaging and visceral. The tempo of Morrell's prose in this book is rapid fire and certainly kept me flipping pages. The man doesn't waste words. The characters and dialogue were natural and never forced. All in all, a superbly crafted book that I would recommend. My only complaint was that the ending, though exciting and tense, came off a bit weak in my opi...more
Eric
Like many good horror novels, the premise for this one is very simple. A virus is unleashed in a small town. It is spread through bites by infected individuals. Dogs, cats, and humans are the most affected. The virus, similar to rabies but different, turns the victim into a raving, slobbering, violent, lunatic. Domestic dogs and cats become killers.

That's the story. Morrell then throws in some believable and sympathetic characters and lets 'er rip. There's the sheriff who moved there from Detro...more
Patrick
I guess this is the literary equivalent of a boring 70's Z-grade horror movie I would fall asleep watching late at night. Which is not a bad thing, as that's a sort of pleasure I enjoy.

The Totem stars the ubiquitous horror movie small-town Sheriff, a part perfected by L.Q. Jones in a zillion movies. Totem's Sheriff, named Slaughter (no surprising moniker from the writer who brought us Rambo in First Blood) is a man running from his past in the East Coast and has settled in the relatively peacefu...more
Valancourt Books
'The Totem' is definitely a page-turner. Disturbances in the small Wyoming town of Potters Field as a full moon approaches lead the local sheriff on a race against time to find out who or what is killing off the townspeople. Although the plot is simple, Morrell crafts a tale of horror with ever-increasing suspense and just enough twists to keep you guessing until the end. And then the end only leaves you wanting more.
David B
The version of the book that I read is the one originally published back in 1979. It came out of a box in my friend's garage, and I decided to read it because he remembered liking it so much. I liked it, too. Although it is rather conventional in its structure and some aspects of the plot were left underdeveloped, I thought that David Morrell had a good handle on the genre and wrote some interesting characters--all men who have endured personal and professional failures and retreated to a small...more
Gwen
Potter's Field, a rural town in Wyoming, has a problem. Cattle are found mutilated, people are being viciously attacked by creatures, an entire family has disappeared, and a small boy goes insane after being bitten by a raccoon. Spreading quickly from an unknown source is a rabies-like virus and it's up to the town's sheriff to unravel the mystery and put a stop to the epidemic.

Although listed as horror, the plot really is more action/adventure with some gruesome mystery tossed in. It took me a...more
Charles
This is really the only horror novel that Morrell ever wrote, although some of his stories hit in that genre. "The Totem" was excellent, though, and I wish he'd have written more horror.
Barbara
This book was pretty good but I thought the ending was disappointing.
Kathy Jackson
Well, well, well. I finished the book this evening – I couldn’t put it down. The story reminds me of Dean Koontz’s Midnight thought this story originally came out 10 years earlier.

I have to say I liked Slaughter, the main character and his various band of cohorts. The story starts out so well – lots of suspense that kept you at the edge of your seat. I can’t say it was so thick that I was talking to the book – which does happen sometimes in the middle of the night when a character is about to do...more
Scott
In the introduction to "The Totem," David Morrell talks about how when the novel was originally published in 1979, the publisher made him change the manuscript considerably before it was released. This version, published in 1995, is the complete, original version of Morrell's original manuscript.

The story takes place in the Wyoming ranching town of Potter's Field. The sheriff of the town, Slaughter, is a transplant from Detroit. An alcoholic reporter, Dunlap, arrives in town to do a 'then and no...more
Angel
So here's the thing about this book- I liked it. I mean I really liked it. I thought Chief Slaughter was a great character, I even liked the alcoholic reporter Dunlap. I need to admit though everytime they talked about hippies I couldn't help thinking of South Park and Cartman. Wrong I know but this is how the mind works sometimes. At any rate, this is a creepy story in my humble opinion.
Now, here's the thing that frustrated me. I opened my Nook and it tell me 710 pages. Well OK! I get to page 4...more
Kelly
This is a difficult one to review because I have the edition that has both versions of the novel in it, the original, unreleased longer one, and the original, shorter release. I read the longer version and will get to the shorter one at a later date.

I liked this book but it took me a while to get into it. Well-written and interesting, I never fully engaged with it until the troubles really started in the story. Once they did, I was all-in. There are some good, creepy moments throughout and the...more
Grant Turnage
A page-turner to be sure, but not quite horror. More suspense and/or thriller than horror. I liked it and I especially liked how he blamed Kesey, Cassady, the Merry Pranksters, and hippies in general for the trouble this small town experienced. Brilliant!!
Dhuaine
People get killed in gruesome manner is small town in the mountains.

And that's about everything I can tell without going into spoilers. Not that anything is impressive in this book. The identity of the attacker is revealed too early, and once we know what causes the deaths, the book becomes a chronicle of all the more bloody incidents. There's nothing scary in it. Everything is written plainly and without much suspense. The novel had me finally wondering 50 or 70 pages before the end, but knowin...more
Mark
I was curios to read the author's attempt at 'horror'as he mentions Stephen King as inspiration. Sadly I was extremely disappointed with this confusing book. It was in truth - a terrible read. The only good point? Its concise length.
Amanda
This was one of those books that has it all, a fantastic story idea, brilliant characters written in a lovely fluid style. There is also a lot of insight into the behaviours of mankind that bakes this book seem so very realistic. Definitely on my excellent read shelf!
Veronika
Hororový nádech..s úplňkem přichází smrt…co se skrývá v lese za tajemství… dobrý a poutavý příběh, při kterém naskakuje husí kůže… docela jsem se i bála :-) a teď přemýšlím, jestli to celé vlastně nebyla kravina:-D
Greg
I first read the paperback in the late 80s. I found the author's idea of publishing the original draft with published novel together in the Kindle format intriguing enough to buy. I admit to not remembering much of what I read twenty or do years ago, but the story in the original draft had some similarities with my memories.

As a suspense novel, I thought it held up well, though it falls just a little short of getting four stars. 3.75 would be about right.

Peeking at the published version, I see...more
Jon
This book was not what I had expected but great regardless. David Morrell writes the best characters and doesn't have to take half the book to do it.
Steve
Special Edition, Morrell's original book before it was cut and edited by the original publisher.

This version was much longer and more detailed, without the love interest. The story was gripping and hard to put down, with a plot that was a cross between Stephen King's The Stand and the movie Zombieland (the disease was similar to a very fast acting rabies virus).

For most of David Morrell's work, I would say that he does not have any weaknesses. A gripping plot, interesting and well developed ch...more
Jen
A horror novel with a pretty simple premise. A virus is released upon a small town. It spreads through bites and acts like rabies. The virus appears to have started with a commune up in the mountains and has manifested and spread to the town below.

There are a lot of characters in this book and not a lot of names, so at times it was hard to keep track. Backstory was missing on the major characters, and made it hard to connect with them. Backstory was also missing on how the virus developed, where...more
Jennifer
I really enjoyed this book up until the end. I didn't understand the ending and was left hanging and wondering why everything happened. It was weird.
David
I picked up a used copy of The Totem recently thinking that it would be a standard horror novel. But after a promising start, this book became more of a medical thriller than horror novel. The character development was not particularly great and I found myself reading this to get through it rather than enjoying it. I know this is an early effort by Morrell and he has since moved into more the political intrigue genre but this book in my opinion is not worth the read. (originally posted on Amazon...more
Maurean
Well...although I found the storyline somewhat, um, tedious, I thought the writing was phenominal. Morrell is an excellent storyteller, and he grabbed my attention very early on in the book, and held it throughout.I really liked the main character, Slaughter, and he elicited a positive response from this reader! The ending seemed a bit abrupt and pat, but, overall, I think it was a good read. I will make it a point to read more of Morrell's work in the future.
Chris Agostarola
I thought this book really stunk. Was totally not worth reading. Took me a whole week to read because I just couldn't get into it. It was kind of like a re really old really bad horror movie. A rabies like virus gets unleashed on a town. It was supposed to be really scary. I thought it was really boring. Not scary at all & I wouldn't even consider it a horror novel. Still trying to figure out why it's called The Totem???
Jeremy Hornik
Unusual zombie story, from before zombies became a whole sub-genre. The writer bites off a few too many characters in trying to portray the effects on a whole town. Parts seem rushed, and other parts are hard to follow. Characters are pretty much stock.

Points deducted for dead kids (my personal alarms set off, yours may be fine.)
Bill1971
He has a very easy to get into reading style although this book went in a different direction than I thought. More of a virus book than a monster book. I for some reason thought the scary looking tree creature would be a character but as they say, you can't judge a book by it's cover.
Jeannie Sloan
I put it down about half way through.I just didn't care enough about the characters to finish the book.I like this authors' short stories and I think that I will stick to them.This book had too many superficial characters without a lot of depth about any of them.I don't recommend it.
gbcjr
There is something awful plaguing the small community of Potter's Field, Wyoming, and it hardly represents mankind. A page-turner of a read, that hints at horrors beyond the rationale and incorporates action-packed sequences. Highly recommended.
Ty
I loved First Blood. I really liked Testament. I wasn't to crazy about this one. It takes forever to get going and then the ending just kinda happens. I thought I was reading a werewolf book but instead got a story about rabid hippes?
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David Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.
More about David Morrell...
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