Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: Hissers by Ryan C. Thomas, Permuted Press, 2011, 256 pages.

My last column heralded the return of the Drive-In Movie monster. Well, after reading ‘Hissers’ I felt as though I had missed a story from that compilation. This book is the perfect complement to those stories. A common denominator is Ryan C. Thomas.

The premise is tried and true: a military experiment gone awry unleashes a post-apocalyptic zombie buffet. Although heavily clichéd in plot and borrowing generously from those 1950s B and C movies as well as the X-Files, ‘Hissers’ strength lies in its character driven teen drama. Monsters chasing humans suffices as the backdrop for the coming of age story of four teenagers whose humanity is tested in their fight for survival. In a bit of as twist, the teens battle not only monsters, but our own military. Think ‘Walking Dead’ meets ‘Stand By Me’ meets ‘Breakfast Club’ meets the sweet ‘smell of napalm in the morning’.

Welcome to the lazy, quiet town of Castor, where Connor and Seth, (geeks/heroes), and Nicole and Amanita, (babes/babes), all live. They will be starting high school in a week or so they think. While the girls flirt with the guys, coaxing them to a nearby house party, on the way the four witness a plane crash that rips through the party house and the surrounding neighborhood. Unbeknown to anyone, the plane crash unleashes a concoction of the lyssavirus mixed with rabies, vials of which were surreptitiously carried onboard by a government operative. It is then that the undead madness begins. The plane crash victims reincarnate as human insect hybrid creatures that decry vegetarianism and attack everyone human. Of course our fab four grow closer as they defend themselves and become dependent upon one another for survival. But battling the monsters without, rivals the teenage angst within. Our author provides us with a revealing look into their checkered childhoods, then proceeds to examine these teenage psyches as each grapple with the demands of overnight adulthood. Overshadowing adolescent development is the singular objective of survival in a world without adult guidance, without rules or laws; just munching monsters.

What sets this toothy terror tale apart from the rest of the yawning crowd is that it is entirely character driven. The story is more introspective than reactive. Don’t get me wrong ‘Hissers’ has plenty of fast paced action, primary carried by minimal description and tons of dialogue. The read is fast. The writing is merciless. You will be surprised as to who dies and how. And the ending will leave you right where it should – still in the middle of this apocalypse not knowing what the future will hold.

Without qualification I recommend this volume. It takes a tired premise and turns it into an interesting and fun read.

Buy it here.

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