Kin begins at what is usually conceived as an ending: on the well-trod path of the final girl staggering away from a massacre, the lone survivor afterKin begins at what is usually conceived as an ending: on the well-trod path of the final girl staggering away from a massacre, the lone survivor after a family of backwoods cannibals takes an unhealthy interest in a group of teenage backpackers. (Slasher movies and torture porn. Yawn.)
But then the story turns itself inside out and slaps the reader upside the head by becoming not merely revenge fiction (though it's that, too), but an investigation of the ripple-effects of a horrific crime, and the ways in which formidable bonds can form from even the most tenuous connections in times of crisis. For Burke, the word "kin" is key, and the story clearly implies a broader sense of "family" than just that of the gruesome Merrills.
Kin is told from multiple, disparate points of view, all of which cross and weave together seamlessly as the denoument approaches. Among the sharply delineated characters are Claire, the survivor of inexpressible horrors; Peter, a slow but kind farm boy who, along with his father, finds the dying Claire on the road and takes her to the local doctor; Finch, a struggling Iraq war vet and the brother of Claire's boyfriend (now numbered among the cannibalized dead); and Luke, eldest son of the God-fearing, torture-loving, and flesh-eating Merrill clan. Burke's acute psychological profiles invite the reader to empathize not only with the crippling PTSD and survivor's guilt of victims, but also to approach an understanding of the repugnant family values that breed savages.
You should know what you are getting into when you pick up Kin: the violence level is exceptionally high and graphic (although one might intuit that from the blurb). Burke's book is certainly not for the faint of heart, but once you get through the first few raw, stomach-churning chapters, you'll find the payoff in beautiful (and hideous) prose, well-turned dialogue and believable characters, and a tautly constructed plot that keeps twisting until the very end. I'm giving Kin four-and-a-half stars and not five for one detail that felt a bit off to me, but it's a major spoiler, so you'll have to decide for yourself. Suffice it to say, I won't be able forget this novel anytime soon....more
George R.R. Martin writes a lot, having set his hand to everything from television scripts, to short stories, to epic series. Horror, science fiction,George R.R. Martin writes a lot, having set his hand to everything from television scripts, to short stories, to epic series. Horror, science fiction, fantasy, he's done it all. He's also been at it quite a long time. Fevre Dream, the story of a magnificent steamboat, her captain, and the vampires struggling for control of the Mississippi region, is one of his earliest novels -- 30 years old now -- but already his talent for world building was dazzling.
Let's get something straight up front. I can already hear people saying "Vampires? I am so over vampires . . .," and tuning out. But consider: this novel was written ages before the good vampire/bad vampire dichotomy became rote, years before they became rock stars, and decades before they sparkled. Do yourself a favor and try to approach it unjaded, because . . .
Fevre Dream is also fantastic historical fiction, as much about the vanished world of steamboats and their captains plying the eternal river as anything else. Martin's magic way with details transports the reader straight to the Mississippi waterfronts of the 1850s. There we meet the blustering Abner Marsh, owner of the Fevre River Packet Company. Abner has come on hard times; his once-prosperous fleet reduced from six boats to one by the vagaries of fire and weather. And so it is we find him entertaining a too-good-to-be-true offer of partnership from one Joshua York, a mysterious, and very rich, businessman. The offer includes not only the purchase of half the company, but the promise to build Marsh the most glorious steamboat the river has ever seen. The catch? York will of course be in charge, and his retinue aboard . . . And Abner is to ask no questions.
Dubious at first, Marsh is finally seduced by the idea of a steamboat so fast that it can beat the Eclipse, the current star of the Mississippi. And when she's done, it's love at first sight:
The mists gave way for them, and there she stood, high and proud, dwarfing all the other boats around her. Her cabins and rails gleamed with fresh paint pale as snow, bright even in the gray shroud of fog. Way up on her texas roof, halfway to the stars, her pilot house seemed to glitter; a glass temple, its ornate cupola decorated all around with fancy woodwork as intricate as Irish lace. Her chimneys, twin pillars that stood just forward of the texas deck, rose up a hundred feet, black and straight and haughty. Their feathered tops bloomed like two dark metal flowers.
Shrugging off any ominous associations, he names her the Fevre Dream, and the river's finest new showboat sets off with a full load of passengers and cargo, headed first to St. Louis, and on to New Orleans. It's the happiest day of Abner Marsh's life.
It's not long, however, before Abner tires of his partner's secrets and strange behavior. York sleeps all day, requests the Fevre Dream make unscheduled stops and disappears, sometimes for days, delaying the increasingly irritated passengers and, more importantly, spoiling the reputation of his boat before she has had a chance to prove herself. Suspicious, Marsh takes matters into his own hands, searching York's cabin while he is away. What he finds there will thrust him, and the Fevre Dream, into the middle of a decades-long feud between two vampires struggling for ideological control of their species.
It doesn't surprise me to find beautiful passages and sensuous detail in a book by Martin, or complicated relationships and complex reversals of fate. He's a magnificent writer. But it's clear in Fevre Dream that he's still honing certain talents. One of the weaker areas is characterization, which in some cases (looking at you, Abner) is more vivid than subtle. He is not yet the creator of the ridiculously lifelike Tyrion Lannister, and ASoIaF lovers might feel the characters approaching caricature some of the time. (So, really, Fevre Dream only suffers in comparison to his later awesomeness.) It's also hard to read old-school vampire stories with a straight face in the wake of the pop-cultural deluge. But do try to get past it: a 4-star novel from GRRM is probably better than whatever you're reading right now. ...more
Wow. Hardboiled noir meets the Memphis blues and eldritch Lovecraftian horror. If any of those words ring your bell, read Southern Gods right now. WitWow. Hardboiled noir meets the Memphis blues and eldritch Lovecraftian horror. If any of those words ring your bell, read Southern Gods right now. With tight, literate prose and a great deal of ooky splatter, John Horner Jacobs' debut novel adds an original -- and swampy-foetid -- breath of air to the Lovecraft-inspired new weird. Get ready to welcome the Old Ones to the bayou! And admit it: who among us doesn't want a peek at the illustrated Necronomicon? I know, right?
Needless to say, if that first paragraph is gibberish to you, or if appalling violence and obscene ancient rituals put you off your feed, please don't read this book. There's also a smattering of sex, and lots of smoking, drinking and playing the blues, which you probably won't like either. You have been warned. ...more