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Monday, March 30, 2009

“Afraid” by Jack Kilborn (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jack Kilborn Website
Order “Afraid
Read An Excerpt
Read Reviews via Shotsmag

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym for J.A. Konrath, the award-winning author of the Jack Daniel series. He is also the editor of the hitman anthology “These Guns For Hire”, and his short stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines and collections.

PLOT SUMMARY: Welcome to Safe Haven, Wisconsin. Miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force. Until now…

A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven's only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn't come to their town by accident…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 384 pages and includes an excerpt from Jack Kilborn’s next novel. Instead of chapter breaks, “Afraid” is broken up by several alternating character viewpoints (Sheriff Arnold “Ace” Streng, Erwin Luggs, Fran Stauffer, Josh VanCamp, Dr. Ralph Stubin, Duncan Stauffer, Jessie Lee Sloan, General Alton Tope, et cetera) which are in the third-person. “Afraid” is a standalone novel and comes to a satisfying conclusion. March 31, 2009 marks the Mass Market Paperback publication of “Afraid” via
Grand Central Publishing. Cover art and design by Dale Fiorello. The UK Hardcover edition was first published on November 13, 2008 (Headline).

ANALYSIS: Don’t you love it when a book lives up to its billing? When I first heard about Jack Kilborn’sAfraid” what immediately grabbed my attention was the tagline: “Reminiscent of the best novels of Stephen King and Dean Koontz”. Now I love Koontz and while I’m not as big a fan of Stephen King, I respect the author’s work, so I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a good old-fashioned horror novel. And guess what, “Afraid” delivers”…

Part horror, part suspense and part techno-thriller, “Afraid” not only evokes the very best of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but also brings to mind Robert R. McCammon, Thomas Harris of Hannibal Lecter fame, and a little bit of Michael Crichton, resulting in a novel that is balls to the walls terror, unforgiving brutality, and gut-churning gore.

The writing itself is superb featuring breathless pacing; well-rounded characters with convincing narrative voices—Duncan sounds like a ten-year-old boy, Ace Streng an over-the-hill cop and Vietnam veteran, Fran a desperate mother, and so on—and a story that is skillfully plotted and executed, particularly the buildup of suspense and unexpected revelations/betrayals. On top of that, the author’s imagination is incredibly vivid and demented ;)

Factor in five frightening killers who are described as “Hannibal Lecters with Rambo training and transhuman modifications (enhanced strength, speed, sight, instincts, healing, aggression, etc.)”, a body count in the hundreds, high-tech weaponry and science that borders on sci-fi, a faithful beagle named Woof, and a brain-enhanced capuchin monkey named Alan Mathison Turing, and you have a book that is just about impossible to resist.

Granted, “Afraid” does suffer from some of the same problems that plague horror in general like ordinary people somehow overcoming impossible odds and other suspensions of disbelief, stereotypical characters, and familiar plot devices, but these are issues that only affect the book if you let them. Myself, I appreciated the old-school vibe of the novel mixed with a contemporary setting and sensibilities, and just had a blast reading “Afraid”!

In the end, Jack Kilborn’sAfraid” is simply brilliant and is not only “reminiscent of the best novels of Stephen King and Dean Koontz”, but deserves a place right next to the best novels by these masters of horror…


Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

Definitely sounds like a really thrilling read!! Excellent review (=

Alexander Field said...

Great review and recommendation of "Afraid' - it sounds like I should check this book out. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, breathless pacing, great characters and Hannibal meets Rambo, that's a recipe for a heck of a story...


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