Yesterday, I had this guest post by Jeffrey Wilson. Today I am going to review his latest novel, The Donors*.
But first, I am running a giveaway of The Donors for the next few days. If you are interested in winning a paperback copy of the novel, email me at zombiegrl75[at]gmail[dot]com by Sunday at 5pm central time. Put "The Donors" in the subject heading. The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday and a book will be sent out to you.
Now on to the review.....
I have have talked about in the past, JournalStone is my current favorite independent publisher of dark fiction. They are leading the charge to revitalize the horror paperback market. One of their biggest hits this season is Jeffrey Wilson's The Donors (the other is anything by Brett Talley, but we will get to him next week). JournalStone has succeeded in getting the paperback copies of The Donors on the shelf in Barnes and Nobel stores. This is a testament to their rising stature in the publishing world, and a nod to the quality of this horror novel.
Nathan, a 5 year old boy ends up in the emergency room, a victim of abuse at the hands of his mom's boyfriend. His doctor, Jason, is instantly drawn to Nathan as he too has a dark secret of abuse in his own past.
But this hospital has a dark secret of its own. It is filled with demonic looking men with pale faces and glowing eyes. Only Nathan and Jason can see these Lizard Men for what they really are: creatures who feed off of their victims' fear and harvest their organs while they are awake.
Only Nathan can defeat the Lizard Men and restore order to the hospital and his and Jason's lives.
Appeal (or why you would read this book): People who are new to my reviews need to understand that I believe that ever book has a reader, and it is my job to match the book to the reader. I talk about the appeal of the book in empirical terms: what is here that would make you want to read the book. And in this case, there is a lot of reasons to give The Donors a try.
The character are endearing and well drawn for the genre. The narration in this novel moves around but is mostly between Nathan and Jason (although there are some visceral scenes of the Lizard Men attacking their victims; these were great!). What I really liked about Nathan's 5 year old narration was that is was believable. He is not precocious. As he is readying to battle the Lizard Men, he thinks of himself as a Power Ranger. He is regularly reminding himself to be brave and "big." I also liked how we get to see the same scene from Nathan's view and Jason's view at times. It adds a depth to the story and deepens the character development of each.
All in all we get 4 fully drawn characters (Jenny the nurse, and Nathan's mom are the other 2) who we care about. Then Wilson adds the truly disgusting monsters who torture their victims, although it should be said that some of their victims deserve what is coming for them. They prey on people's fear, using it as an entrance to their physical body. Once insides, they suck the life out of the person.
These are great monsters. They are evil, creepy, and well dressed. Seriously, though, all good horror books need a terrible monster of some type to drive the fear. If the reader does not like the protagonists and the monsters are not scary enough, what's the point. Wilson nails this on both counts. The Lizard men are great in the sense that I believed that they were terrifying manifestations of pure evil. As a result, the chase to stop them is suspenseful and intense.
There are some visceral scenes, but this is not a blood and guts story at all. That being said, many readers do not like books with abused children. Nathan and Jason have both been through a lot. If this bothers you, please do not read this novel. If you are only slightly uneasy with this, I assure you that the abusers do not win. Actually, reading this story as Sandusky was being sentenced added a level of extra anxiety. Even in a world without Lizard Men, evil stalks young children. That is scary on its own. Wilson plays off of this real world threat to increase the terror of The Donors.
The Donors is a blend of dark fantasy and horror. While the Lizard Men monsters are evil, sadistic, and well realized, the story ends more like fantasy than horror. This makes it a good option for a broader audience, but it may disappoint hard-core horror fans.
The Donors is a great pick for medium to large public libraries with a following in dark fantasy and horror.
Send me an email to enter the contest for a free copy for you or your library.
Three Words That Describe This Book: monsters, child narrator, intense
Readalikes: If you liked the medical thriller parts of this novel and don't need the supernatural elements to keep you on the edge of your seat, make sure you try Robin Cook and Michael Palmer. Both have been around a while and are still writing frightening and thrilling novels where terrible things happen in hospitals.
Another horror book set in a hospital getting a lot of press this season is The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. I will have more on this novel next week, but it is a good readalike option; however please note that The Devil in Silver has more psychological suspense and an adult narrator.
A couple horror titles that feature young narrators and a similar intense fight against evil creatures are Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon and The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff (another title by her, The Price, also has a hospital setting).
Finally, if you want to read another terrifying book with a young narrator who is the victim of abuse, try the critically acclaimed, compelling, and intense Room by Emma Donoghue.
*Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this novel for free from the author.