Written by Adam Cesare
Published by Ravenous Shadows
Adam Cesare’s Tribesmen is a literary take on the Italian cannibal subgenre. It’s the sort of novel that would’ve been right at home on convention tables alongside its cinematic brethren in decades past. A spiritual successor to films like Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse and Mountain of the Cannibal God, the question while reading Tribesmen isn’t ”who will survive” so much as it’s ”how horribly will these suckers die?”
And while Cesare doesn’t disappoint in the shock department, there’s quite a bit more to recommend beyond the excessive violence and gore. Cesare proves he’s got a deft touch when chronicling not just the gory details, but also in crafting colorful characters and a fast-paced, enjoyable story. Admittedly, jungle cannibalism doesn’t sound like the most interesting subject for genre fiction, but Tribesman moves so quickly that it’s never even remotely dull. One mustn’t be a fan of the films that inspired Cesare in order to enjoy the book, either. It weaves plenty of homages into its narrative, but the take is fresh enough to keep readers on their toes from beginning to end.
The story is fostered upon a fairly simple premise: Exploitation filmmakers trek into an unnamed jungle in an attempt to churn out a grade-Z chunkblower. Of course, their slapdash plan to exploit the locals into participating in their movie doesn’t turn out exactly as they expect and the situation quickly escalates into a jaw-dropping bloodbath. If you’ve ever seen a cannibal flick, then you have a pretty good idea where this goes, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Cesare doesn’t feel obligated to merely retread the works of filmmakers like Martino, Deodato or Margheriti here, and his own addition to a somewhat tired subgenre is fresh, fun and exciting.
Tribesmen is some of the most fun you can have in the genre right now. The characters aren’t particularly likable, but they’re all smarmy enough to be entertaining. The locales are brought to vivid life through Cesare’s words (again, hard to believe this is a debut novel), and there’s plenty of dark humor of help offset the book’s most disturbing moments. I read this in one sitting and easily could’ve gone another hundred pages without tiring of the material. In an world where author’s texts are bloated to ridiculous lengths on a seemingly regular basis, it’s nice to be left wanting more as opposed to feeling like it was way too much.
Tribesmen joins Die, You Bastard! Die! as my two favorite reads of the year. Both novels successfully work within the confines of their exploitation influences and do so with aplomb. Tribesmen is a total blast. In a market overly dominated by zombies and vampires, why not don some khakis and take a trip into the jungle for some blood-soaked cannibal debauchery? I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it. And best of all, you don’t have to watch real animal deaths to enjoy the ride this time! Very much recommended!
4 1/2 out of 5