Monday, January 12, 2009


In 2001, the horror genre lost, at an untimely age, one of its greatest lights when Richard Laymon succumbed to a heart attack. Laymon never really got the recognition from the general audience he deserved in life, but was, after Stephen King, arguably the most influential writer of recent times in terms of his impact on other writers. To honor his memory, Cemetery Dance commissioned an anthology called In Laymon’s Terms, where writers would write about their experiences with Mr. Laymon, and author stories that would be an homage to him. Due to production delays, In Laymon’s Terms has not yet been published, but horror writer Brian Keene has expanded his entry in the book (the story can also be read in his excellent collection Fear of Gravity) into a full length novel, Castaways.

Generally when writers try to write in another writer’s style, the results are less than sparkling, as they bury their own voice in an attempt to copy another author. That isn’t the case here. Keene has managed to blend his own style with Laymon’s themes to produce a book which is among Keene’s very best, and would rank among Laymon’s very best as well.

The novel focuses on a reality TV show, which is more or less Survivor, named Castaways. A number of people are in the early stages of a competition where they are marooned on an uninhabited Pacific island, competing to see who the last one left will be. Unbeknownst to them, there will be a more challenging, real-life competition, as the island isn’t so uninhabited. A vicious race of man-like creatures lives in the caves on the island. At the same time a powerful typhoon washes over the island, the creatures attack the contestants, desiring them for food, and for breeding purposes. The contestants pretend game of survival turns all too real. Instead of fighting to see who will be sthe last one left to claim a million dollars, they are fighting to see who will survive.

There is a connection to Laymon’s work (the creatures seem to be the same from the Beast House trilogy), as well as connective bits to Keene’s other work, and to H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. You don’t have to have any knowledge of any of these other stories, as Castaways stands on its own just fine, but these things are an added treat for the hard-core fan.

Castaways, which will be published at the end of the month by Leisure, is visceral, exciting, and flows amazingly well. If you are already a Keene fan, you certainly won’t want to miss this book. If you are already a fan, this would be a great place to start.


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