Urban Gothic 

by Brian Keene
Reviewed by I.E. Lester

For six college-kids from out of town there are few worse places for the car to break down than in a run down ghetto district of Philadelphia. However this, being a horror novel, nothing as ordinary as an attack by 
gangbangers is likely to happen, even though that is exactly what the six expect when they are approached by a group of black youths.

Fearing the worst but not waiting long enough to see if their fears are justified (they are not) they run, abandoning their car, and seek refuge in an old, dilapidated and seemingly abandoned Victorian house. The one thing they didn't count on is being in far greater danger inside the house than they could ever have been on the street. This house is inhabited, and as Brian Keene is the author, you can take it as read it's not by a kindly old couple likely to dote on the incomers.

Within moments the six are reduced to four when the first person/creature they encounter is a deformed giant with a very large hammer. This is just the start as the four remaining friends find themselves in a nightmare of mutation, slime, infection and bodily fluids.

Brian Keene knows how to write stories that will turn your stomach - he's proven that over his career. But in this book, he's taken the gross-out factor to a whole new level. It's the literary equivalent of someone using your face as a testing ground to see which out of a various of bodily secretions and foul-smelling slimes will slither down the slowest.

However it's not an out and out gorefest of a book. There may be scenes of total out-and-out horror; there may be sufficient deaths to keep terror-fans happy, but despite all the slime it's not over-the-top. There is a strong story here - a simple one yes, you can't claim complexity in any tale you can sum up in six words ("teenagers versus mutants locked house showdown," if you're interested) - but it's relentless. Keene just doesn't let up.

Now all this action and gooey-ness does come at a bit of a price. The characters here are very much a secondary consideration. This is about terror plain and simple, and Keene has shied away from painting too much  backstory. But this makes sense. Why, you don't exactly need to know any more about the six than they are in the shit (figuratively and, at times, literally). He leaves it to the reader to know what teenagers are like - we can fill our own details in.

This is not a novel for the squeamish, nor for the dark fantasy vampire-angst market. Keene has once again given us a hard-hitting, no-apologies-offered, horror novel. And for that we can only be grateful.

Book Details

Brian Keene
Urban Gothic
Leisure Books
301 pages

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