(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.