Trudi's Reviews > Endurance - A Novel of Terror

Endurance - A Novel of Terror by Jack Kilborn
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Okay, let me be up-front about this ...no bullshitting ... Endurance is some sick and twisted shit. Some of the sickest and twisted-est shit I've read in a very long time. BUT ... and this is an important "but" folks ... Endurance is also solidly written, sublimely creepy in parts, with characters you can root for and other characters you can hate. And that's what saves this novel from the unsavory pit of mere torture porn.

In a recent documentary, Stephen King makes a very interesting point about graphic violence and horror. This is how he distinguishes 'torture porn': there are times when we are reading/watching to see the monster killed, and there are other times when we are reading/watching to see the monster kill. It may seem like a nebulous distinction, but I think he hit the nail right on the head. That's why the latter makes us feel so dirty; King refers to it as "morally queasy".

In most horror, we want the monster to be slain, we want the good guys to prevail. Bad shit can happen along the way, but the monster should not become the hero. We root for the victims, we do not root for the sick motherfucker and the pain and carnage he/she/it is inflicting. That's the difference between the first movie in a franchise, and the last movie in a franchise; in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy is the monster and we want him stopped. By number 5, we're there to see what kind of sick shenanigans he can come up with next, knowing full well that the victims are now fodder to support his starring role. Suddenly, he's the guy we're cheering for (well, sort of, but I hope my point is clear).

Don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty as the next person. I've watched all the SAW movies as each has degenerated more and more into gratuitous violence. But none of them will ever be as satisfying as the original, when I really, really wanted those two guys to survive and slay the monster (before Jigsaw started getting top billing and the best trailer).

More to the point (and I've said this many times before), I don't scare if I don't care. Give me characters I can care about and suddenly I start fretting for their well-being and safety. I don't want to see them hurt (no matter how imaginatively), I don't want them to die. I want them to survive and for the monster to be slain.

Endurance has a surprisingly large cast of characters for this type of story, and I actually liked them all. I wanted them all to survive and I definitely wanted these freakazoid, in-bred monsters tormenting them to be stopped. There is nothing original here (it’s got Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn all over it, not to mention an unforgettable X-Files episode called “Home”), but Kilborn still manages to give it a nice, ruthless twist of his own. The devil is in the details, yes?

October Country 2011 #3
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