Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Post Mortem Press (February 10, 2011)
Kindle: ASIN B004MDLTYC
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
This novel is a cross-genre science fiction / horror though leaning more to the latter. Unlike most dystopian apocalyptic stories in which the whole planet suffers, the action here is limited to a rural area of Illinois. We are, thankfully, not bombarded with presidential speeches, and global infodumps, but experience a strange phenomenon through the eyes of a handful of people, who could be your neighbours. In fact those people feel so real, the reader can forgive aspects of the plot that would otherwise stretch credulity to breaking point.
Although, Martin, the lead character, has doubts about why the army lay waste the towns in his State, and is troubled to the point of trauma over the transmogrification of his brother, he is extraordinarily solid. He’s the kind of man people are drawn to in a crisis, and they are. Even though he had to shoot his own brother, and witness toe-curling horrors caused by both alien-changed-human creatures, and the army, he has an instinct to make the right decisions for his little group of survivors. All the more puzzling then why he leaves a paper trail: a kind of diary and instructions, on their escape route. Yes, other survivors, such as Sheila, who yearns to be Martin’s woman – love at first sight, though desperation to be loved is the attractive force – needed to find directional clues. But then so could the soldiers and I don’t buy the explanation that none of them read anything.* There are other plot puzzles, but I don’t mind. They are not too inconsistent with the bizarre situation the characters are in, and even normal life is rather baffling, at least to me.
My favourite character is an ornery brute of a man, Ike. Many readers find themselves being attracted to an evil character, but those ogres are usually intelligent (think of Hannibal Lecter, and Lex Luthor); antagonists whose wit matches even out-performs the protagonist. Not Ike. He is dumber than an Illinois hog; his specialities being cussing, lewdness and misunderstanding. Yet every time a chapter came along told through Ike’s point of view, my pleasure zone buzzed. It’s rare to be so entertained while reading a horror story. Following poor Ike’s intellectually-challenged interpretations of the bizarre happenings first hand is a treat. His sections are well-written too:
‘Ike felt the smile… then he was able to find enough air in his lungs to get out the next words. “Fuck you and yer Goddamned hive.” … Ike smiled and it sent a surge of pain into his head. He let the smile subside, but it was too late. Everything began to swim in pain. His world spun out of control and Ike began to feel a pull to the darkness. With that feeling Ike passed out.’
Hive? Yes, the aliens have built at least one and their human captives occupy it. Weird and yet it works, mainly because of what I said at the beginning. I would go so far as to say that in spite of several typos, and head-hopping point-of-view flips, These Trespasses is a master class in characterization. An easy read, horror readers of all types will find scenes to salivate over in this page turner.
* Footnote. US combatants are issued with memory sticks containing novels. I only knew this after my publisher’s inbox bulged with emails from US soldiers in the Middle East asking for the sequel to his book, The Ardly Effect that had been made freely available.