Crown/Hodder & Stoughton, p/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Monsters hunt nightly for human prey in San Francisco. They vary greatly in appearance, from the apparently human to assorted grotesques. Some seem part-animal, with claws or talons or the heads of wolves or snakes. And they’re super-strong, fierce and cannibalistic, somewhat like the Nightbreed from Clive Barker’s Cabal. Some human characters develop a telepathic bond with these creatures, and we join them in their exploration and discovery of the monsters, the horrors hinted at and gradually revealed. Sigler shies away from any supernatural element, preferring his own brand of pseudo-science, which isn’t really any more convincing than demonic possession or the like but it’s fun to read and lets us get some good scenes with the pathologist.
It’s a furiously paced, plot-driven horror thriller, very much in the style of early Dean Koontz or Stephen King. The imagery is striking and it seems designed to be filmed, as if he had one eye on an adaptation when he wrote it, or perhaps he just has a very visual imagination. Despite a hefty word count, this is a quick and easy read, and I enjoyed it a lot.
The characters are engagingly quirky. There is an overweight, foul-mouthed Chinese cop who is gathering material for the TV cop show he’s writing. His partner the terminator is a highly efficient killer of bad guys. The smutty one-liner dialogue between these two is the source of most of the novel’s humour, and that humour is welcome because the story is relentlessly dark.
I had a few problems with this book. The witty dialogue is great, but it didn’t always ring true: I couldn’t imagine such light-hearted banter at scenes of carnage and death. The monsters are bulletproof and superfast healers, but their invulnerability varies to suit the plot: If you’re going to re-write the laws of biology you should at least make the new ones consistent. Also, I saw the ending coming from two hundred pages away.
This is not Sigler’s masterwork but, nevertheless, it is a hugely enjoyable read by an author who continues to grow, and whom I shall continue to follow and enjoy in the future.