Review: Off Season

Off Season
Off Season by Jack Ketchum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The legend of Sawney Bean, the mythical Scottish cannibal who fathered a clan of 48 insane children who chomped their way through a thousand corpses, relocates to rural, coastal Maine, where six New Yorkers are terrorized by some inbred lunatics over the course of a rather harrowing night.

Oh, if only they knew … the truth is so much worse! You should see what things are like inland!

I kid. I kid my homeland.

This book was an engaging read, even if I didn’t feel like I had a real solid grasp on the characters. I continually got the cops confused (who was the young one? who the older one? their dialogue often sounded exactly the same, and they both seemed equally competent). I eventually memorized everything and got it straight, but in the beginning it was a bit of a nightmare to keep things sorted.

Also, I feel like the story itself echoes too many other things. For starters, it’s based on the whole Sawney Bean stuff, which has been done a lot over the years (notably as Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes; I was talking about the plot of this to a friend over lunch, and she smiled and called it, The Coastal Cliffs Have Eyes, which is pretty appropriate). I do like this version much better than Wes Craven’s, but the story suffers for the familiarity.

There’s also a moment toward the end of the story that recalls another scene from a Wes Craven film, this time from The Last House on the Left. And a climactic moment is a nigh-on direct rip-off of a scene in George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead. I think Ketchum is aware of these grafts, but even so, once again, it saps the story of some of its luster to have so many echoes of other stories.

After reading the afterword to this revised version, I am so freaking glad I read this one and not the version that came out in 1988. I agree with the changes Ketchum made.

But all that doesn’t and shouldn’t take away from the simple fact that this is another Ketchum novel I couldn’t stop reading. I’m looking forward to diving straight into the first of the two sequels and seeing where he takes this next (and if someone is going to end up swinging from the Hairy Tree).

One more note: I bought this for Kindle from Amazon, and the formatting might have cost my appreciation of the story a modicum of enthusiasm. Whatever they used to OCR this book should never be used again!

Here’s a sample image of what my copy looked like … oh yeah … you know a book has to be fairly gripping to keep you reading through crap like this …

that's some ugly text

careful with that text, eugene

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