Review: Castaways by Brian Keene

(Review for Bizarro Brigade.)

Reality TV has been ripe for genre deconstruction, practically from the moment it entered the public consciousness. With its cachet of conflicting personalities, frequent premises involving isolation, and of course the inherent voyeuristic delight that drives it, the format is tailor-made for sharp-witted horror authors. Taking its cue from SURVIVOR, Brian Keene’s CASTAWAYS is among the first to explore this new territory, expanding his novella from 2004’s FEAR OF GRAVITY to novel length.

Contestants on a competitive-survivalist reality program find themselves on a seemingly deserted island. But competition quickly guves way to self-preservation when a race of humanoid ape-creatures emerge to slaughter the men and hoard the women for future breeding. (The premise is not as distasteful as it sounds; Keene focuses more on the creatures’ need to continue their line rather than exploiting the concept for lurid thrills, as in more cliched versions of this trope.)

Yet Keene’s less interested in lampooning reality television conventions than paying homage to Richard Laymon, transplanting the late author’s BEAST HOUSE monsters to a tropical setting and tearing loose. Fans of both writers will be pleased, as the action is swift, vicious, and unrelenting (much like the beasties themselves). Keene’s proven himself adept at giving the reader fully realized, relatable characters and ruthlessly putting them in jeopardy (some of them even manage to see the epilogue), and CASTAWAYS is no exception. The book has a vivid cinematic style that makes for a fast-paced, stimulating read.

Well-written survival-mode horror fiction that does not disappoint.

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