Offspring

January 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

OffspringOffspring by Jack Ketchum

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I wasn’t a big fan of Off Season, despite it being a pretty notable book within the horror field. I won’t reiterate all the details why, but I will say that I found the violence to be gratuitous, and the story somewhat pointless to really enjoy. It was also a book that highlighted the problem of misogyny in horror, which didn’t make me disposed to like the book any more.

Offspring is the sequel to Off Season, and follows much of the same story over again. Ketchum moves the chronology ahead by about ten years, and turns his attention to two new families to fight against the violent cannibals, but the story is effectively the same. The story is one of extreme violence and of survival against incredible odds.

The book also suffers from some of the same problems as its predecessor. It still feels like too much, and of course there’s still the problem of the book’s misogyny. Lots of people die in the book, but only the women are kept alive to be tortured. This time, Ketchum at least gives a semblance of a reason for it, but the book is another in a long line of horror novels where violence against women serves as the highest form of terror. The violence against the titular character of The Girl Next Door was also extreme, and Ketchum wrote lengthy scenes of torturing a teenage girl, but it never felt like misogyny like it does here. There, it was the end of a progression of events that did more to highlight that character’s strength than to titillate the reader with graphic details; here, it just feels like exploitation.

On the plus side, Ketchum goes further into the characters of this story. He brings back one of the protagonists from the first novel, and examines his families more before he starts killing them off. More of them survive the initial attack, which gave the story more focus on the hope of survival, as Ketchum follows those characters through the main events. There’s more of a chance of heroism here, and it goes a long way toward making the story feel like it has a point. The novel still has a lot of darkness, and treads into uncomfortable, seemingly unnecessary detail, but it also feels more about survival than Off Season does.

Thanks to the characterization in this novel, it’s a step above Off Season, but it’s still not a book I would recommend to the average reader. Its brutality and violence set it apart. Fans of splatterpunk should like it, as would people who enjoyed the first book, but I still find that Ketchum does better when he examines psychological horror as when he goes full gore.

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