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 can escape and finish what he started. To end his line and 'Bad Blood.' Meanwhile pudgy Sheriff of Cedar Rapids, Luke Friend, investigates the homicides and finds himself inexorably drawn into ancient mythological secrets involving an entity known as The Green Traveler; 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 stringing the book together involve genetic research facility the Spellman Institute and their latest trophy to further the cause of science: Captain Black. America's largest pig, Captain Black 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 . . . but he's unaware the donor is none other than one of Terrance Pearson's murdered brood, a descendant of the immortal Green Traveler. 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 to further her cause to make America a vegan society.

Recently, there was discussion with a group I'm involved in regarding giant authors who can fly under the radar. Although well versed with most horror fiction writers to have made an impact in the last twenty years, Flesh and Blood is my first foray into the realm of Graham Masterson. But it won't be the last. His mythology of Janek the Green seems to be totally original; an entire folklore evolved from scratch. Janek's minions include ghostly beings reminiscent of Cenobites . . . each of them having an individual function to perform in relation to butchering Janek's victims. Flesh and Blood works like something sweet on the stomach; it tastes rich and dark but is ultimately bad for you. Throughout the many scenes, lights stutter and flicker, and Graham unleashes the plausibility factor 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 instead of page numbers, be prepared for a prolonged wait. Coming into the climax I felt an editor's zeal kick in, muttering at minor errors. Commas became out of sync, displaying the rhythms of long-winded syntax. 

As plot-lines converge, we are treated to a massive final showdown. Like King's Needful Things, our stage is lit up in a subtle yet apocalyptic face-off. Unfortunately, it does try a little too hard, with too many pages, many of which (might) have been clipped in half.

Overall, as a writer, Masterson is certainly no hack. The book has intelligent philosophical undertones regarding meat consumption in 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. Over the decades, Graham has been more than prolific, and Flesh and Blood is only the beginning of (what will no doubt be) a long affair with a very impressive resume.