“If you like fast-paced, action-packed horror in a compact and easy-to-read novella that will keep you hooked until the very last page, consider checking out this book.”
Rich Hawkins burst onto the horror fiction scene with his debut novel, the British Fantasy Award nominated The Last Plague, in August 2014. In the two years since, he has released two more novels in the ‘The ‘Plague’ trilogy, two independently published short stories and three novellas. His latest novella, Scavengers, was released in July 2016. It is a fast-paced, thrilling survival story set in the forests of Southwest England and follows two couples who attempt to spend a relaxing week at a countryside cottage. But their holiday is cut short before it even begins.
The two main characters, Ray and Shell, are thrust into a nightmare struggle for survival when, along with Tim and Jules and their infant daughter Molly, they encounter the scavengers while investigating an abandoned car on a road through the forest. Hawkins leaves nothing to the imagination as he describes the attack in blood-curdling detail, “viscera”, “dangling intestines” and “guts spilling” all mentioned. And not everyone survives.
Ray and Shell are rounded, three-dimensional characters, allowing the reader to relate to their struggles whether they be the natural relationship problems all couples face, or the unnatural events that the protagonists face after meeting the child-sized scavengers. Hawkins makes the characters as believable as possible while subjecting them to the most unbelievably brutal night of their lives.
Some writers would shy away from using children as the antagonist in a horror story, given the possibility of violence against a child. But Hawkins, through excellent description and the inner dialogue of Ray, clearly displays the monstrous nature of these little ones. These are no ordinary children and, if they ever were, they have lost almost all traces of humanity.
From the initial, deadly contact on the lonely stretch of road the action is ramped up further. The survivors face a night of terror as they find themselves isolated from the outside world. Here Hawkins excels as he places his protagonists in ever-mounting horrible circumstances, facing some truly horrific choices, all delivered with skill and flair from the author’s dark imagination to the page. While they endure and try to overcome the relentless attacks of the scavengers and the mysterious commune of adults who also have a part in the origin of the blood-thirsty children, we can’t help but become invested in their fight to survive.
Father Novak is the mysterious priest who guides the members of the commune like a shepherd. But there is clearly something wrong with this holy man’s methods and ideology. With Novak, Hawkins explores the dark nature of religious zealotry and blind worship. And how some authority figures can manipulate a whole group of people with a few well-chosen words. The scene where we meet Novak is pivotal to the story, the events of the past few chapters hurtling towards this one moment that will change the outcome for everyone involved.
While not as bleak as the ‘The Plague’ trilogy or his first novella, Black Star, Black Sun, Scavengers is no less entertaining. And there is hope in this story, if you want it. Every small chapter seems to have the protagonists facing the bigger dilemma of escaping the woods or a more urgent dilemma of surviving the following seconds or hours. And Hawkins makes us believe in his characters, that they shall face adversity but maybe, just maybe, they shall overcome. If you like fast-paced, action-packed horror in a compact and easy-to-read novella that will keep you hooked until the very last page, consider checking out this book.
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
ebook: (85 pp)
Release Date: 20 July 2016
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