Book Review: Pestilence by Blake Ryan

I read just as many westerns as I do horror novels, so the rare instances in which the two are combined is always a double treat for me.  Blake Ryan’s Pestilence concerns a zombie-type plague which quickly spreads throughout New Mexico of 1880.  While the infected have the usual mannerisms, appetites, and weaknesses of the zombies we’ve become familiar with through film and comic books, Ryan’s zombies are distinct in that they are perpetually covered in blood.  The plague causes the reanimated corpses to sweat blood in what the author describes as, “an unholy parody of stigmata.”  It’s a striking image, but still may not prepare readers for the amount of blood which flows throughout the story.

It’s the characters facing the threat that make these stories work or fail, however.  At first, I thought Ryan would end up on the latter end of that spectrum as the characters he initially introduces us to are some of the most unlikeable and reprehensible I’ve ever read.  With the rapid introduction of an unscrupulous businessman, a drug addicted clergyman, and a band of murderous outlaws, there was simply no one to like.  That changes during the course of the story as circumstances drive some of the characters to acts of heroics and self-sacrifice.  One character in particular, a hulking albino named Charles Maddox, is introduced to readers as a man with little regard for life.  He revels in acts of murder and rape.  I hated him.  Somewhere mid-story, I found myself cheering him on.  I’ll warn readers ahead of time not to get too attached to any of the characters; this is a horror novel, and Ryan will repeatedly remind you of that fact.  It’s a tale of death, and there’s plenty to go around.

Ryan moves the story along at a brisk pace and readers will have difficulty putting it down as the desire to know what happens next is somewhat overwhelming.  I could have easily read, and actually wanted, an additional two to three hundred pages of this book.  Maybe my wish will be filled, in a way, if Ryan chooses to revisit this world he’s created.  There’s certainly more there to explore.

 

Pestilence: A Grim Prairie Tale is written by Blake Ryan

Reviewed by T-Shirt Joe

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