Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Castaways by Brian Keene

I already mentioned how excited I was to read Brian Keene's new novel, Castaways. This is Keene's tribute to Richard Laymon, spawned from a short story featured in the anthology In Laymon's Terms and Keene's own anthology, Fear of Gravity.

Castaways is a reality show like Survivor. But the contestants don't know they're sharing an island with beasts. And since there are no other animals on the island, the monsters plan to have a great feast of human meat. But that's just for the men. They have something else in store for the women - they're planning to breed with them to save their dying, inbred species.

The plot isn't very original, but I was willing to overlook that because I love Brian Keene. You can definitely tell that it's an homage to Richard Laymon. There's tons of blood and gore. Lots of descriptions of ripping skin off and eating organs. And too many descriptions of the monsters' penises. I get that they were trying to breed, but how many times do you have to mention them? We get the picture, move on.

The pace is slow for the first few chapters, bogged down by explanations of how the reality show works. It's unnecessary for everyone who has seen Survivor and makes the beginning boring. But after that, the pace picks up.

The characters also slow down the story. There are too many to keep track of, and most of them have their own back story, even though they get killed off immediately. The book is too short (about 300 pages) for 10+ characters. I couldn't keep track of who was who, until the beasts narrowed down the contestants.

Also, all of the characters were stereotypes. I know that reality shows choose stereotypes, but I thought that Keene would make them deeper than they appear. Nope. There's the average guy, the girl next door, the bimbo, the token black guy and black girl, and more. But none of these characters are fleshed out more.

Except for the main character's apparent interest in cryptozoology. How convenient, he can identify what the creatures on the island are. I know sometimes books use things that make no sense to further the plot, but making cryptozoology his hobby is just ridiculous.

I don't want to give anything away, so all I will say about the ending is that it was disappointing. Everything was wrapped up too nicely. I had some ideas of how it could end, but unfortunately none of those happened.

But it did keep my interest and it was very gory. While it could've been much better, it wasn't that bad, and will keep you entertained if you can get over the slow beginning, the many stereotypical characters and the let-down ending.

Rating: 3/5

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