Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Nate Kenyon
Published by Leisure Books
When the end of the world comes, however it comes, and you’re trapped in a bunker with your best friends, the question comes to mind: Just how well do you really know them? And what if your conspiracy-theorist friend (everyone has one) turns out to be right? Many of us think of our friends as extended family members, people we can count on and who know us better than anyone else. But when the chips are down and mushroom clouds are blooming outside, there’s a lot to be learned. In Nate Kenyon’s Sparrow Rock horror hits with a one-two punch, coming at the reader psychologically and physically.
The story revolves around a group of teen-agers who are looking for a place to get high and party. As luck would have it, one of them has a grandfather who is, among other things, a survival nut who built a state-of-the-art bomb shelter, fully stocked and perfect for drinking, toking, and other late-night naughtiness. What they don’t know is, at that very moment, the world is tuning up for Armageddon. When the bombs fall and they lock themselves in, they discover two things: People in captivity begin to unravel, and there’s something outside that is unlike anything they’ve seen in horror movies.
Kenyon is at his absolute best with this novel, building tension that is palpable and horror that is absorbing. From the moment the shelter’s door clangs shut, the reader can feel the air go stale, feel the subtle panic rise, and wants the characters to get out in any way possible. And once they get too comfortable and placid, Kenyon throws a few curve-balls at them in the form of smart, genetically engineered insects that burrow into the skin and eventually take over their victims. Think of it kind of like Puppet Masters with nanobots, only much more frightening and gory. Oh, but that’s not all. There are quite a few layers to the horror in this story, but to tell about any more of them would be spoiling the plot.
Perhaps the most impressive and disturbing aspect of Sparrow Rock is the psychology at work among the characters. When they first discover what’s going on, they assume their natural roles. But as time wears on, the interaction between the jock (Dan, the natural leader) and the others shows chinks in his armor that the others didn’t know were there. Even more disturbing and fascinating is the interaction between the main character, Pete, and his friend, Tessa, who spends the novel as the voice of reason whether anyone will listen to her or not. Then there is Jimmy, the conspiracy theorist, and the wonderfully horrible realization that he might just have been right all along.
It’s difficult to write a review of a book like Sparrow Rock because it twists and turns so much that every sentence could give away a key moment of suspense. Suffice to say the book is worth reading and will prompt many to re-read to catch a few of the things they might’ve missed. An excellent book that is highly recommended.
4 1/2 out of 5
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