The eagle-eyed among you will have noted that, although I’ve written the vast majority of the content for this site, I did run one review by someone else — namely Mark Tyree, who reviewed Ryan Thomas’ Born to Bleed a while back. I told Mark I was interested in running more reviews by him, but… Mark has a tendency to go off on tangents now and then — and not just minor deviations, either. We’re talking about forks in the road that can wind up leaving the reader somewhere east of Timbuktu, with no map, compass, or clue. That’s all part of his charm as a writer, though. At least I think so.
Anyway, the point is: if I try to edit out those tangents, what you’re left with is … just not authentic Tyree any more. It’s the editorial equivalent of emasculating a bull. So I didn’t want to hack away at what he produced, but given that the goal for reviews on this site is to keep them in the ballpark of 500-750 words, well, Mark strays far off of that reservation. All things considered, it seemed to me that the best option was to give him a column, with free reign to foam at the keyboard, rather than try and shoehorn his output into a standard review form.
So…without further ado, I present to you the first installment of what will be an irregular column from Mr. T.
First off, for this review (OK, column), I’ve started, stopped, deleted, monkey’d with, dumped in a fit of headshakes, disgust and giggles five times or so. Screw it. Lets let fly and see what sticks.
First, a huge apology to my well-respected host for the usual tardiness. No excuses, really. Just gotta realize, in these troubled times, my life’s not the only one that seems to be spinning on a never-ending patch of black ice. While spinning, things of leisure like reading are always on the back burner; chances of kicking back for a nice, relaxing read being sucked away into the hood vent, and the fact I’ve always been a painfully slow reader does not help matters, either. There was no earthly reason for me to be invited into the Twilight Ridge chateau, or for me to smear wet, dog-shit-laced leaves into his beige carpet, drink all the top-shelf booze, scratch his V-Roys CD, insist on a crappy “This is AWESOME!” Asian dvd pulled from a back pocket, pee on the water heater and pass out leaving a soppy, mashed-up puddle of single malt, juniper-and-vomit-reeking drool on the sofa cushion… and you’re all going, “Wow that’s some …fairly specific shit right there …”
Wink. But I mean, really folks. What Robert has put up with this past month shows a patience and understanding (“Where’s that f*****g werewolf book review, damn lazy bastard!”) that would rival that of Job. (Editor’s note: For what I’m paying Mr. Tyree, I can afford to be patient.)
Also, you guys ‘n’ gals come to this site for Robert’s knowledge, taste and recommendations in small press tales of horror (saves weeding through fungible titles spending hard-earned money, am I right ?), not some semi-retired plumber’s ramblings regarding a friend’s book. Yes, a friend’s book. Dumb move. Never EVER will I again open my yap to say “Hey buddy! Send me your book, I’ll read it and give my thoughts on Twilight Ridge. Deal?”
Nope. Dumbest thing ever, reviewing a good friend’s work they poured sweat and oozed blood into creating. Why? You need to ask?
If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t trust someone who was stupid enough to review a buddy’s work in the first place. In particular, if said review was positive, would I trust the review from the writer’s friend? Hell to the no!
Fingers crossed. Only way out of this jam, for me, is one door: the fact the book really is good and worth picking up. And you’re gonna need to trust me.
Primeval is the second book in a series, the first being the well-received Bestial. In fact, I’m told that around 2011 Simon & Schuster swung a deal to re-publish several Permuted Press under the S&S imprint… and one of those titles was Bestial, which says something about the book’s quality. Now we have Primeval.
And let me tell ya, the book takes off out of the gate faster than a Bugatti Veyron with the sure-footed self-confidence of a Bowler Wildcat. In Bestial, the writer ripped apart his hometown of Cincinnati with the airborne Lycan Virus. That book had fantastic characters and I was pleased to see them return in this second gore-filled outing; it’s always a pleasure to encounter interesting characters tossed into a blood-soaked horror show.
Primeval initially takes us into the story using one of my favorite tricks for providing backstory: newspaper articles, this time from a rag called World Weekly News under the byline James Creed. Right off, we know Creed will be a major player in the events to come. His articles all concern the Lycan Virus and the fact is that it’s still very much in the here and now. According to Creed, there is no longer a need for a full moon to get things rolling, and the population afflicted now consider it an alternative lifestyle. I love that — “alternative lifestyle.” I could go on about that but, I won’t…
Creed also writes about New York City rats…large, aggressive muthas that look wildly different, besides the fact that they’re the size of cats…(Bowie anyone?) Creed hooks up with a homeless underground dweller named Michael Keene, who promises Creed a helluva story — not just Keene’s personal tale of woe, but a whole lot more. To show Creed first-hand what’s been going on, Keene and his dog lead Creed from the 42nd Street Subway station, down into the darkness…
Meanwhile, expert sniper Nicole Truitt, recovering from the earlier events in Cinci, is on on a wind-down vacation with her partner Sandy in New York when she’s suddenly tossed back into action. Sandy’s there to visit the 9/11 site, where she lost a loved one; to be alone with his spirit and to “Have my moment with Timmy. See what they’re putting up as a monument.” Nicole’s boss, General Taylor Burns, just happens to be in the same hotel, and gives her some b.s. story about why he’s there, too. Burns is Carl’s best character — sad, lonely, ruthless and mean when needed, and the best at what he does. He also considers Nicole to be his own flesh and blood; the love he carries for her is that deep and to the bone. The scene where Nicole tells him she and Sandy are lovers is very, very funny — Burns is, like, “What, do I look stupid?”
Sandy is riding the subway back from her visit to the hotel when the train grinds to a halt, lights flickering… She’s stuck there in the car with a wonderfully rendered, racially diverse group of New Yorkers and, of course, her Blackberry isn’t worth a damn as she tries to contact Nicole who’s watching things go down alongside Burns. The virus is sweeping through at an unstoppable rate, Manhattan being chewed from the inside out via swarms of highly contagious vermin, hungry vermin where a mere scratch changes a human into a beast that would bite the head off their own children…which one does in a graphically filthy theater scene.
Here’s where I hit the pause button for a sec. One of the first horror books I read was James Herbert’s The Fog. What had me ripping through that genre classic was the way Herbert would veer away from the main characters to toss-away characters simply because, (as I read years later in an interview) he was bored, and wanted to kill a bunch of folks in the most fun and ghastly of ways. So he did!
When reading Primeval, I was immediately taken back to the joys of The Fog and yeah, yeah, I know, you’re thinking — why not The Rats, doofus! Because what Herbert did was, to me, simply for fun. Whereas Carl takes us to the hows/wheres and, more importantly, the whens of New Yorkers being attacked, changing, then rip-shit-tear-assing– we’re talking blood-and-guts-a-go-go, here people! He’s letting readers see the progression of the virus. It’s a hoot, too, especially when you recognize a lot of the names involved, including yours truly… Another book I was reminded of was Brian Keene’s ground-breaking The Rising but you’ll have to read Primeval to see exactly what I’m referring to. Sorry.
Anyway, while our two men and a dog grapple with their own horrors underground, Sandy remains trapped, and General Burns and Nicole stand stunned in front of their TV and window, watching one horror after another. It soon becomes apparent that the only way to contain the virus is to cut off Manhattan from the rest of the world. Jets are dispatched, missiles fly. Fun starts. Think road trip underground.
Non-sequitur: another thing I love about reading is, when you’re in good hands, deeply involved with the plot out of the blue, a writer will toss in something along the lines of:
“By the time the smoke cleared, the bridge Walt Whitman had once called ‘The best medicine his soul had ever experienced,’ the world’s first steel suspension bridge, a mile of brilliant design and architecture, was little more than rubble in the churning water.”
First, I’m learning an interesting fact and, second, any writer who can make me feel as saddened by the loss of a freaking bridge as much as the loss of a character is one to keep an eye out for.
I urge you to pick up Bestial before you read Primeval. Sure, you can start Primeval as a stand-alone novel but it’s always more rewarding when investing time in a series to start at the beginning and that rather-obvious remark could not be more true than as with the case of Bill Carl’s werewolf saga. I have to tell you, good folks, in this age of zombies, zombies and more zombies, and silly, sissy, romantic, metrosexual vampires saturating pop culture, well-written, good, old-fashioned werewolf novels, with a brilliant twist, are a breath of fresh air… even if said air is exhaled through monstrous, drool-covered fangs, smelling of chewed meat and fresh, raw blood.