Saturday, February 27, 2010

FLESH AND BLOOD BY GRAHAM MASTERTON




A father of three and small-time farmer, Terrance Pearson, slaughters his young children by decapitating them in what appears to be systematic executions. One of them escapes and Terrance is caught. He has no regrets, and only wishes he could get out and finish what he started. To finish his line and 'Bad Blood.' Meanwhile pudgy Sheriff of Cedar Rapids, Luke Friend, investigates the homicides and finds himself drawn inexorably into ancient mythological secrets involving an entity known as The Green Traveller - a creature who is more plant than man and seems to regard his offspring through the generations as nothing more than a food source -


So begins the foundation of this startlingly gruesome and bizarre novel. Other elements that string the book together involve genetic research facility the Spellman Institute and their latest trophy to further the cause of science: Captain Black , America's biggest pig who is the size and weight of a small car. Dr Garth Matthews wants to implant the genetic code of a human child into Captain Black's brain . . . and what he doesn't know is that the donor is one of Terrance Pearson's murdered brood, a descendent of the immortal Green Traveller. Rallying to stop this unethical practice is animal rights activist Lily Monarch , a girl with secrets from her past and someone who will do anything in order to further her cause to make America a Vegetarian society.

Recently, there was discussion with a group I'm involved in regarding giant authors who can sometimes fly under the radar. Although well versed with most writers of horror fiction who have made an impact on us in the last twenty years, I'm ashamed to say Flesh and Blood is my first foray into the realm of Graham Masterson. But it certainly won't be the last. The mythology of Janek the Green seems to be totally original in its construction; Graham has evolved an entire folklore from scratch. Janek's minions include ghostly beings who reminded me of Clive Barker's Cenobites . . . with each of them having an individual function to perform in relation to butchering Janek's victims. The entire novel works like something sweet on the stomach; it's tastes rich and dark but is bad for you. Lights stutter and flicker throughout the many scenes, and Graham unleashes the plausibility factor very well: we believe in Janek the Green , and we sympathize with the monstrous Captain Black.

But Graham Masterson is certainly no James Patterson. Fifty pages can stream by without a single break in the narrative. And if you're a reader who stops at a chapters split-ends to have that elusive toilet stop instead of page numbers, be prepared for a long wait. Coming into the climax of the novel I found an editors zeal kick in, muttering under my breath at obvious mistakes. Commas became common place and out of sync, displaying the rhythms of an over confident writer who needed to be reeled in a little by his editor. That said, I believe these long-winded parts to be responsibility of the editor. It was he or she that was supposed to be on clean up duty, not sleeping on the job.

As all plot-lines converge, we are treated to a massive final showdown. Like King's Needful Things the stage is lit up in a small but apocalyptic face-off. Unfortunately, it does try a little too hard , and with too many pages. I had the distinct impression many of them could have been clipped in half.

All is forgiven, however ,as with any long novel there is going to be pitfalls and positives. Overall, as a writer, Graham Masterson is definately no hack. The book has intelligent philosophical undertones regarding meat consumption in our modern society, the ethical treatment of animals, and our own brainwashed ability to turn a blind eye to the activities of those who lead us. Thankfully, Graham has been very prolific over the decades, and I know this is just the beginning of what will be a very long love affair with his impressive resume.

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