THAT WAS MAX
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I love a well written story. There's nothing I enjoy more than visceral imagery so lush that you can feel, taste, smell, and see it. When the rhythm of the words is like a song with a hook that gets stuck in your head for days. THE BEAST THAT WAS MAX does that for me. It fulfills my thirst for the clever turn of phrase and well-crafted imagery and metaphors.
At times it's almost poetic. The good news is that it doesn't lose any of its horror in being so and in fact the beauty of the words (if that's even an appropriate phrase to use in reference to descriptions of wanton carnage) amplifies the impact of each description. The most horrible imagery is artfully described as the hero of this story rips the guts out of zombies and eagerly recalls scenes of rape, murder, and mutilation from his past.
THE BEAST THAT WAS MAX is not your typical serial killer novel. It is not your average spy vs spy thriller. It is not yet another tale of demonic possession or dark sorcery. It is all of these things tweaked, twisted, and set ablaze until it resembles none of them. It is the story of a truly malevolent guy who gets charged with a mission that forever alters him, shows him new possibilities beyond his life of violence and death. It is the chronicle of a spiritual transformation, the evolution of the soul, a hero's journey through rivers of blood.
I loved this book because it not only made me root for the bad guy but it made me uncertain as to who the bad guy was.
Hell, the hero of the novel kills people for fun! That shouldn't be right. Why should I want this guy to win? But I did. I kept forgetting that the guy I was rooting for had a demon inside him. And not a soft fluffy demon who does nothing worse than make you cheat on your tax return or leave the toilet seat up, this was a demon that thirsted for screams of agony and the taste of blood, flesh, and fear! Yet every step of the way I wanted to see the guy make it.
I wanted to know if the woman who first touched his soul would come back to save him. I wanted to know if he would find love with the murderous twins that called him "Uncle Beast". I wanted to know if that love would exorcise the demon within him. I wanted to know if the decades of violent carnal indulgence had left him so desensitized as to never be capable of feeling anything again.
Perhaps I'm biased because I'm a poet myself and an unrepentant gore-hound and this book provided both poetry and gore in equal quantities, but I fucking loved this book. This was the first thing I'd ever read from this author. I had never even read so much as a short story from Gerard Houarner before picking up THE BEAST THAT WAS MAX, but if this is indicative of what he has to offer the world of horror fiction then I'm definitely a lifelong fan. At times it reminded me of Tom Piccirilli and even occasionally of Clive Barker. I would not be surprised if Houarner listed both among his influences.
I highly recommend this book and I give it five book wyrms.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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