Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas (CBR-V #19)

Cannonball Read V: Book #19/52
Published: 2006
Pages: 174
Genre: Horror

I have to admit, I put off reading this book for a long time due to the reviews saying how gory and disgusting it was. I've read a lot of horror and I'm pretty sure my goal back in high school/college was to find the grossest horror novel of all time, but since I've gotten a little older I've realized that I no longer like gore just for the sake of gore. I like a story and good characters too. So ultimately, that's why I finally decided to read this novel. Although it's hailed as being extremely gross, it also supposedly has solid characters. 

Roger and Tooth are best friends. However, this past year Roger went off to college while Tooth stayed in their hometown. The reunite over the summer and take a trip into the woods to drink beer and do some target practice. When it's almost dark, they hear a woman screaming. After some debating, they decide to go find her in case she's hurt or needs help. Unfortunately, the crazy man who is chasing the screaming woman starts chasing Roger and Tooth as well. Then he chains them in his basement and tortures them.

The reviews weren't kidding - this book is gory. If the most horror you've read is Stephen King, this is much worse, but if you've read stuff like Jack Kilborn or Jack Ketchum you'll be fine. So is this book just torture-porn? Well, yes and no. Torture-porn tends to be gross without having characters or a storyline to back it up. That's where this book is different. I LIKED Roger and Tooth. They're not perfect, but they're really likable guys. The whole reason they are caught in this mess is because they tried to help a screaming woman even though they were tired and half drunk and just wanted to go home. 

For such a short book (less than 200 pages), I thought the character development was great. I've read 500 page books that I remember less about the characters. Even Skinny Man (the crazy guy who chains them up) is an interesting character. He's not just pegged as sick and evil like a lot of villans - he seems to actually have some sort of mental issue as well (he talks to himself and has conversations with his dogs). I mean, most killers probably aren't totally right upstairs, but I liked that the author gave this killer more symptoms of a mental issue than just killing. 

Roger and Tooth were great characters as well. They were just so honest and real. They weren't heroes or anything. They even debated whether or not they should even help the screaming women - just like drunk 19-year-old boys probably would do. I also liked the honesty of Roger being both sad, but mostly grateful, when Skinny Man was torturing Tooth instead of himself. That just seems like how people would REALLY think if they were in that situation, no matter how awful or selfish it may seem. 

I'd highly recommend this book if you can stomach it. The writing and characters are probably the best I've seen in a horror novel in a long time. 

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