Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Bryan Smith
Published by Leisure Books
It happens to all writers, I think, but it seems especially obvious with those who publish through Leisure over and over again; the slump. It seems all my favorite authors are beginning to find it, and with the publication of Soultaker it seems Bryan Smith has joined them.
Not that Soultaker is a bad novel; it just reeks of being uninspired. Hell, at one point Smith calls his own bluff in the narrative regarding the stereotype he’s fallen into, but unfortunately it detract from the fact that he’s in it.
The story follows a writer named Jake who returns to the hellhole of a small town he grew up in when his mother, whom he’s always hated thanks to a childhood filled with abuse of all forms, calls him and pleads for his help, worried about the state of her youngest son, Jake’s half-brother Trey. Though never terribly close, Trey’s about the only thing Jake can call family, so he swallows his pride (and more than a few beers) and heads home.
So there’s the first stereotype horror novel setting; a person who rose above their station in life returning to the small town they grew up in. The rest of it follows as Jake learns that Trey is dating a girl who has some very serious issues, namely that she has the power to control men, making them do whatever she wants. She also has a town full of women who are slowly waking up and realizing that they can do whatever they want to men, too, and that this creature in a woman’s body is truly their God.
Essentially the entire town is going to be this creature’s feeding grounds; she’s come to gather as many of the town’s youth as possible so that she harvest their souls and keep living for another hundred years, in any body of her choosing. I have to give Smith credit for not concluding the book the way one would expect it to, but that still doesn’t make the relatively dull proceedings any easier to get through.
Smith’s writing skills haven’t faltered, which is the only reason Soultaker rises above it’s overall uninspired premise. Though Jake isn’t the strongest character he’s created, he’s still a good anchor to bring the story around. And Smith’s trademark excessive sexuality and gore are still firmly in place, as well, which does lend a nice, evil glean to the proceedings. Though one has to wonder if a small town in the middle of nowhere would really be filled with this many near-perfect examples of females, as Smith can’t help but describe almost all his ladies as incredibly desirable.
Of all of Smith’s books to date, I have to say Soultaker is the weakest, but I’ve still got to say it’s overall fun and moves at a great pace, never slowing down too much even when it feels like the narrative is being distracted. While not wholly original, per se, and certainly not as fun as his previous books, Smith fans can still find a lot to like about Soultaker. I just hope his next work can go back to some of the more freaky & fresh feel of his previous works.
3 out of 5
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