Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}'s Reviews > That Thing at the Zoo

That Thing at the Zoo by James R. Tuck
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Jan 09, 12

bookshelves: arc, urban-fantasy, horror, prequel, male-authors, read-in-2011, kindle-other-sources, free-read
Recommended for: fans of pre-controversy Anita Blake and TV show Supernatural
Read on December 21, 2011

That Thing At the Zoo is a good size dark urban fantasy prequel novella introducing a character whose physical appearance I can picture perfectly. Rarely can I say that, I'm mostly left with a vague overall impression but Mr. Deacon Chalke is a man that cannot and will not be ignored. He's an intimidating 6'4 and 300 pounds. Think WWE star with no hair and lots of tattoos. This guy looks like he could cause trouble and with a classic muscle car complete with a 4-corpse trunk full of weapons, he's equipped to deal with it. Reminds me of a certain beloved Impala belonging to a pair of monster-hunting brothers on TV. Loved that show.

Bottom line: Deacon Chalk, occult bounty hunter, is a total badass. He could kick Harry Dresden's butt easy-peasy. And that brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

You may actively avoid meeting Deacon on the street or a dark alley but he's not the thug his appearance advertises him to be. He's a man still reeling from, and is haunted by, personal trauma. Monsters murdered his family and now he hunts those dangerous to humans. He's not the "tough guy" cliché often expressed in movies where the hero ultimately gets over his tragic loss by kicking some lame villain's butt then settles down with a waitress he just happened to encounter along the way, completely trivialising the effect his past had on him. No, Deacon has full-on flashback panic attacks he tries desperately to stifle and hopes no one notices his distant, pained silences as he experiences a post-traumatic stress episode. These lapses in concentration aren't professional and are downright inconvenient when hunting deadly nasties but he has no control over when they occur. You feel for his anguish, knowing that if he wasn't a Catholic he would rejoin his family in death.

The side character I'm most eager to get to know is the priest:
I don't know what his life was before becoming a Catholic priest, but he can shoot like a sniper and knife fight like a convict. He has my back anytime I need it, whether that means tending bar at Polecats [strip club] or two steps behind me, shotgun in hand.

The writing style is reminiscent of pre-controversy Anita Blake. Gory and gritty. Visceral. No one is safe from being ripped apart and carelessly tossed aside without dignity.

Although it's obvious this has been written by a debut author, I've found something I've been missing from UF of late: a real sense of darkness without the distracting focus on angst-ridden romance (is it really necessary every...single...book?). There's nothing but the characters, plot and the danger around the next corner to occupy the reader -what a relief. My only real negative is the lack of contractions i.e. can't, won't, etc. which in my opinion, slow the pace and jar the reader out of the story. I'm also surprised Deacon so readily disfigured his tattoos to get some blood to "chum the waters" so to speak. I thought tattoos were treasured permanent works of art but it was emergency so I'll let it go.

When it comes to non-full-length prequels authors aren't usually interested in making a concerted effort to give readers an accurate taste of what's to come, with a few exceptions like this. Next up, Blood and Bullets.


Favourite Quotes
'Rednecks are part of the South, and even when they don't look like much, they usually turn out to be tough as leather and full of skills that save your ass.'

"What the fuck are you doing?"
"Putting this thing in the back of my pants like they do on the TV."

'I found Dr. Critter trying to hold off the [spoiler removed] with a bullwhip and an office chair.'


***My thanks to the author for the ebook in return for an honest review.***
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message 1: by Steph (new)

Steph I'll be interested to hear what ya think of it. Didn't realize there was a prequel. I've got book #1 on my wishlist.


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