William Thomas's Reviews > Off Season

Off Season by Jack Ketchum
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Mar 27, 2011

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bookshelves: horror
Read from March 18 to 26, 2011

I am a horror movie fanatic. I love horror movies- from cinematic masterpieces like Halloween to ultra B-rate movies like Dreamaniac and Terror Firmer. It doesn't matter. I love horror.

But I'm starting to think I only really love horror when it is on my TV. I think that I only like it when I am watching it. Because lately I have been on a horror book kick (a genre I avoided mostly out of some silly snobbishness) and I just do not love any of them in the same way that I love horror movies.

And I'm not sure why this is. I can't really put my finger on it. The last and probably only horror novel I will revere as literature and as a perfect piece of writing was Richard Matheson's I am Legend. And it was gorgeous on so many levels- personal, socio-political, allegorical, metaphysical. It wasn't just another horror novel, another genre novel, filled with gore and scare tactics. It was much more than that, raising itself up by the boot straps to a higher form of art.

But now, I just cannot seem to find another book that takes this genre as seriously. That takes it as a vehicle for metaphor and allegory and social commentary in the same way that science fiction always has and always will (ever since War of the Worlds).

I guess right there I am back to being a snob. That's not right. That came out wrong. I don't need a horror novel or genre novel to explore great ideas in order to enjoy it. I don't need to be lured into it with a personal connection either, really. But there is something missing from all these novels that I am reading in this genre that translates much better to the screen. And I don't know if it's the acting and the actors, or if it is the visuals, or the direction. But there is definitely something lacking in these novels that I cannot quite put my finger on and wish that I could.

In this, the first novel I have read by Jack Ketchum, there are all the makings of a great horror movie. A small town sheriff, 5 friends, a deserted town, crazy locals, wilderness. Sounds like the perfect set-up for some Dark Castle production or for the Weinstein's to produce without much money. The pace is set excellently. It is competent in the writing and even draws us in with emotional connections to the characters before casting them into horrific situations, just as any good horror movie would. But something here just wasn't right. Something here bugged me. And if I could tell you what it was I would. But I can't, so I won't.

Off Season, overall, was a cut above the rest of many of the novels I have been reading in the same genre. Some call it torture porn. I call it typical horror. And I think anyone who is in to horror would find it to be typical horror and not pornographic torture. Its not like its the Cannibal Holocaust of literature. But it is pretty good as far as my recent experiences go, and it took me all of a few hours to blow through it.
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Anna  (Bananas!) I have to agree. I'm making an effort to read more horror because I absolutely love horror movies...but I'm finding the books underwhelming. I'll keep trying.

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