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Book Review: Savages by Greg F. Gifune

“Gifune rockets you through the book at runaway freight train speeds and you’ll find yourself at the end of this shockingly brutal tale long before you expect to be there.”

With more than twelve novels, several screenplays, and two short story collections under his belt, Greg F. Gifune is arguably one of the most prolific horror authors in the business right now, and he’s quite the phenomenon. There are a lot of authors who take a “scattergun” approach to publishing, putting out mediocre books one after another in the hopes that where quality is lacking, quantity will pay off. But that’s not what Gifune is about. His work is recognized by publishers and readers alike as noteworthy top shelf horror by an author who excels at his chosen trade and never skimps on the quality or caliber of the fiction he writes. In Savages, his most recent novel from Sinister Grin Press, he continues to hold himself to high standards, presenting us with a tale of survival terror jammed full with action, adventure, and edge of your seat, spine-tingling scares that leave the reader simultaneously anxious to find out what’s next and terrified of what that might be.

Greg F. Gifune is a master of fast paced, rocket fueled horror fiction and Savages is a perfect example of that. It’s the story of six ship-wreck survivors stranded on a desert island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean and, while that sounds like standard fare for a work of survival horror, Gifune’s new novel is anything but. With a well-rounded, well-developed cast of characters, picture perfect setting, and a premise that is one hundred percent original, it’s a blunt-force, in-your-face tale of visceral terror that would fit well on a shelf next to Laymon and Ketchum. The island our hapless crew are stranded on is a place of death, haunted by ancient secrets and a horrifically violent evil entity who will guard those secrets at any cost.

There are several things that really make this work stand out, some of which have already been mentioned in brief. Considering the short duration and fast paced nature of the book, Gifune does a remarkable job building his characters, piecing them together with bits of dialogue and well distributed backstory and making the reader really care about what happens to them. In Quinn, we’re presented with one of the strongest female leads to grace the pages of a horror novel in recent days, while her counterpart, Dallas, is a sympathetic, achingly human character with much to love about him. But try not to fall too much in love with anyone. If you do, odds are good that you’re in love with someone who’s going to get dead sooner or later. Greg F. Gifune demonstrates a startling willingness to kill his darlings and there’s no way to know who’s safe and who’s a redshirt until you turn the very last page.

Another of the many strengths of Savages—as mentioned briefly before—is Greg F. Gifune’s exceptional skill with pacing. The previous mention of Ketchum and Laymon is apt here, as the pace in this story is on par with works of survival horror like Ketchum’s Off Season and Laymon’s Island. Gifune rockets you through the book at runaway freight train speeds and you’ll find yourself at the end of this shockingly brutal tale long before you expect to be there. His control of action scenes, of which there are plenty, and his alacrity with the concept of “show don’t tell” make for a story that is so natural and easy to read that you lose yourself in the moment, captivated by the sharp, precise prose and Gifune’s outstanding ability as a top-notch storyteller.

Savages is a brutally, startlingly violent tale with elements of supernatural and survival horror spattered freely with buckets and buckets of blood and body parts galore. But there’s nothing gratuitous about it. Everything Greg F. Gifune does serves to move the story along and you’ll find yourself ultimately immensely satisfied with the outcome of this short, fast little read that will leave you breathless and wanting more. Gifune is a talented and, thankfully, prolific author and if you haven’t read his work, you’re going to want to change that. Start here. You’ll be happy you did and you’ll be glad that he has so many other books available for your consumption.

SHANE DOUGLAS KEENE

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Paperback: (170pp)
Release Date: 15 September, 2016

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