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THE PRESERVE
By PATRICK LESTEWKA (Necro Publications; 2004)

This tough, gore-packed blow-out combines breakneck action with unflinching horror.  Itís very much in line with the work of Ed Lee, the current sultan of all things extreme, and the Oregon-based Necro Publications, who can always be counted on for truly envelope-pushing fiction of a type the major publishers wonít go near (Necro have since put out a Lestewka-Lee collaboration, which sounds like a true match made in Heaven--or, more accurately, Hell).   

     Itís is a far, far cry, in other words, from the quiet, suggestive brand of terror weíre always being told is better for us.  Obviously I donít concur with that idea, as in my view thereís nothing better than extreme horror in the hands of a writer who knows his stuff, which is definitely the case with THE PRESERVE. 

     Itís the debut novel by Patrick Lestewka, who I understand recently beat out Wrath James White in a literary gross-out contest (THAT, my friends, is saying something!).  He spins a fitfully imaginative yarn with a great deal of startling grue and page-burning tension. 

     The protagonists are five battle-hardened survivors of an elite Vietnam combat unit who confronted some hideous things back in 1967.  Twenty years later the five are leading none-too-normal lives in eighties America, with occupations that include bank robber and mob enforcer--which provides one of the bookís most memorable gore set pieces, involving a dude left in a tanning booth for a long time--while forever trying to put their wartime experiences behind them. 

     Those experiences, however, are about to come rushing back with a vengeance.  Anton Grosevoir, an eccentric millionaire, contacts each man with a business proposition: track down and kill some escaped convicts in the wilds of Northern Canada.  If the five vets can do it they get a million bucks each.  Sounds pretty easy, but, as you might guess, thereís much Grosevoir didnít bother telling his charges. 

     It seems heís not the unassuming millionaire he presents himself as, and has a definite, and disturbing, connection with the protagonistsí Vietnam exploits.  As for the wilderness setting, itís actually a preserve housing an array of supernatural creatures plucked from remote corners of the globe, and soon our shell-shocked heroes are unleashing state of the art weaponry upon an array of predatory beasts. 

     The results are wet and meaty to a fault, with robust, muscular prose that alternates ĎNam flashbacks with the present action, which with its rustic scenery and relentless violence comes to increasingly resemble the horrific past.  Like quite a few modern horror novels, this one is very cinematic; I often felt the author was visualizing his narrative in filmic rather than literary terms, particularly in the sometimes incoherent action of the climax.  The book works, though, being a veritable feast for gore buffs, but with a genuinely heartfelt depiction of the scars left by Vietnam--which, as the subdued finale makes clear, continue to fester.
 


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