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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction


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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Right to Life by Jack Ketchum


It can be very easy to typecast writers, especially horror writers. Peter Benchley wrote Jaws and The Deep and was from then on marine-horror guy. Can it be that to read two books with a similar theme by the same author means to place them in a box? If so, I hope readers thinking of sampling the works of Jack Ketchum will swap and choose. Should you read Offspring and Off Season, both great reads, one might think that Ketchum is cannibal-guy. In this case, should the two books in question be The Girl Next Door and Right to Life, well...

I wouldn't want to see what Jack has in his basement.

Right to Life is a novella of about 140 pages from Edge Books. Sara is in a loving relationship with Greg, which is all well and good if you don't consider his wife and son. Matters are even more complicated as Sara is 3 months pregnant with his child. It's the logical choice to have an abortion is it not? What kind of life would this child have? Sara is determined to go through the procedure, even if she has to walk past the Pro-life protesters with their signs and chants outside the clinic.

Only Sara doesn't get to make her choice as she is grabbed, drugged and bundled into a car. She awakes in her underwear, locked in a long, wooden box. She's in the home of Stephen and Kath Teach, and teaching is exactly what's on their mind. Sara will learn that some people can't have children, and those that can should show more respect to the life growing inside them. She'll also learn to obey at all times, no matter what. Stephen is very keen on that...

We're entering the basement of Ketchum's mind once more in a very, very similar vein to The Girl Next Door. The biggest difference of course is the setting. We're in the last few years rather than the 50's. This doesn't really bode well for poor Sara, as nowadays you can buy plenty of bondage gear online, cashiers in sex shops barely bat an eyelid, and with all the shows on DIY, even an amateur can build the most rudimentary of torture devices (and even more bad news...Stephen is a carpenter!). So the continuous (and I do mean continuous!) pain and humiliation gets a facelift.

But far from this being a one trick pony, Ketchum does infuse a little deep thinking in there, especially regarding the title of the book. The topic of abortion is clearly addressed, with Ketchum showing both sides of the argument fairly equally. Okay, his Pro-life couple may be absolutely crazy, but that's just the sauce on the meat.

I actually thought this was an uplifting book, rather than the doom and gloom of Girl Next Door (which in it's own right is a tremendously dark and touching novel). You're really hoping that Sara will pull through, despite her weaknesses. The gore is severely reduced compared to some other of Jack's novels, which shows that he can restrain himself when necessary. Sure, there is violence and suffering, but it's not wall to wall blood.

My only gripe, as with Next Door, is that the antagonists deserve more justice come the conclusion.

The two bonus short stories in this edition are the standard Ketchum high quality. Brave Girl is a very quick read, that is kinda the opposite story to the main feature. Again, Ketchum shows his serious side and highlights issues in a more subtle manner. I think that some of his critics (in the bio it states that The Village Voice reviewed Off Season with simply YECHH) should read his very thoughtful and poignant shorter works. Returns is a story I've read before and confirms my thoughts that Jack is definitely a cat person.

I read this novella in a single morning. I had to. I usually read at the school and while my son does his karate class, but I felt that the cover (naked, pregnant lady, gagged and blindfolded with a tight leather belt across her nipples) might not be suitable, especially for the head of science.

Like Girl Next Door? You'll adore this. If not, I would recommend it first and then get this...if you're kinky like that.

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Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 2:24 pm :: 0 comments

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