Friday, November 21, 2008


I’ve been a fan of horror and crime fiction since I was a kid. This has made me fairly jaded as far as depictions of violence go. A lifetime of reading about the extremes of human behavior will do that to you.

So I was surprised when, a third of the way through J. F. Gonzalez’ excellent novel Survivor, I contemplated chucking it aside. This had nothing to do with the quality of the book, but it was so harrowing, I was leery of what I knew was to come. Reality based horror, as opposed to the supernatural kind, is usually a bit more intimidating, since you are dealing with something at least theoretically possible. With trepidation, I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did.

Brad and Lisa are two young married lawyers, off for a weekend getaway, when they are stopped by a police officer. It seems another motorist, Caleb Smith, has filed a complaint for a citizen’s arrest against Brad, and he gets to spend the weekend in jail. But the Smith’s real motive is to separate Brad and Lisa in order to kidnap her. It seems that Smith has been commissioned by clients to provide a victim for a snuff film. Lisa is to be raped, tortured, and murdered, for the pleasure of a network of hardcore perverts. But that isn’t even the worst part. That’s what Lisa is willing to do to survive…

My only previous experience with Gonzalez’ work was in reading the enjoyable, B-movie-esque Clickers and Clickers II. Here his work takes a much darker turn. Like at the scene of a highway accident, I found I could not look away. If you can handle it, this is a must-read.

I have a couple of quibbles with the book. It could have used a good proof-reader (this has become the standard in American publishing, I’m afraid), and I felt it could have done with some editing, especially during the last segment of the book, which seemed to meander a bit. But this is not enough to keep this from being a very significant book in the field of non-supernatural horror.

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