Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bigfoot War: The Review!

I believe I first heard of Bigfoot War upon its release while reading one of the horror sites I frequent (Dread Central, perhaps?). I was instantly struck by the cover and thought the concept sounded like Assault on Precinct 13 by way of Harry and the Hendersons.

Needless to say, my kind of story.

I've had my own love affair with Bigfoot from childhood. Living in Arkansas, I've been told that The Legend of Boggy Creek was based on a true story in my own state, and when I was eleven or twelve, I recall a "Bigfoot sighting" that had the whole town (or at least my neighborhood, with all my friends) riled up in excited whispers. I remember reading all the books about Bigfoot I could find in my middle school library. I knew all about footprint casts, and the Yeti, and had seen "The Bigfoot Photo"--you know which one I mean--countless times. As a fan of monsters, Bigfoot (and Nessie, though I was never much of a water guy) was always extra exciting to me because it just might be real.

Seeing the cover to Eric S. Brown's Sasquatchploitation thrill ride Bigfoot War brought my childhood rushing back. After many moons, I finally got hip to the Bigfoot War craze (at the moment it's got 44 5-star reviews on Amazon) and picked up a copy. I was glad I did. I've seen it repeated in Eric's interviews and Facebook posts that his mantra is "bringing fun back to horror"--a message I subscribe to wholeheartedly. I recognize there's a place, and certainly a fanbase, for the gritty, realistic, thriller type horror stories like Saw or Silence of the Lambs, but I've always preferred a healthy dose of unrealism in my horror. A sense of magic, of the fantastic, and of the, well, fun.

On that front, Bigfoot War delivers in spades. The story progresses at a breakneck speed--reading more like a screenplay than a novel. It's very much a Saturday night SyFy Channel "original", and I mean that in the best possible way. It was violent, exciting, at times very dark, and makes no excuses for its "take no prisoners" approach. This is popcorn entertainment in its purest form.

Having said that, I think the novel's strengths also prove to be its greatest weakness. It's short. And when I say it's short, I mean it's short.My first thought upon unboxing my Amazon package was "Where's the rest of it?" It clocks in at a 113 pages. Perhaps because of its slimmed down narrative, the characters sometimes become lost in the action. What we learn on the back cover about Jeff, the hero of our Bigfoot War--that his family was killed by a Bigfoot when he was a boy, he grows up, joins the military, fights in Iraq, and returns to Babble Creek looking for payback--is all you'll ever know about him. The same can be said for nearly every character--While not "caricatures", they are painted in very broad strokes with little time to really get to know them before the fur starts flying (literally). While this might play out a little better in a movie, where the focus is on the visual dynamics of the piece, for a novel, this stripped-down approach can be problematic. But my own novel The Strange Man (What? It's my blog, I can plug) has also been described as very fast, very cinematic, and not very long, so I guess I'm the pot calling the kettle black over here, but there you have it.

However, with all of that being said about the characters, I did find myself rooting for the heroes and was quite moved when certain ones fell to the savagery of the Bigfoot, so I'd say Mr. Brown wasn't entirely unsuccessful at creating his cast of hundreds. There are a lot of folks to keep track of and I had to flip back a few pages more than once to refresh my memory who was who, who had a crush on who, etc.

I found the final battle sequence, where the tribes of angry Bigfoot fall on this town in a storm of blood and carnage, really engaging, and it was every bit as explosive as the reviews touted it to be. I felt a little letdown by the epilogue, where we're introduced to a new group of characters that I assume is build-up to the sequel Bigfoot War: Dead in the Woods, because I felt it detracted, just a bit, from the emotional conclusion of Babble Creek's desperate last stand against Nature's best kept secret weapon.

Despite my minor issues with the book, I still came away from it with a grin, and ready to dig into the sequel when it comes out. I can only imagine that things will get bigger from this point--that the mythology will escalate to crazier heights. This first installment certainly began the series with a bang, and made me a fan in the process.

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