Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by James A. Moore
Published by Leisure Books
Where to begin? For the past few months I’ve been reviewing Leisure’s monthly output, which includes re-issues and new novels from lots of big names in horror. Overall their eye for good horror is impeccable, but sometimes it seems that one just slips through the cracks that lacks the quality, storytelling ability, and tone that sets most of Leisure’s stuff apart from the rest. I’m sad to report that Rabid Growth is one of those.
The follow up to Moore’s Possessions (which I admit I’ve never read, but my interest for it is much less now), the story follows Chris Corin a few months after the events from that book. His mother has died, he is the sole guardian of his 14-year-old sister, and he narrowly escaped a burning building. The building was burning, by the way, because he had set it on fire to stop some sort of creature from entering our world from another dimension.
In the process he saved a lot of fellow citizens who were in some kind of stasis in order to feed the beast, and now those he saved are showing sever signs of deterioration. Wounds that won’t heal, dangerous mood swings, and a pension for starting fights with one another are just some of the symptoms. Corin’s best friend is one of them, and soon he, his sister, and their friends are all in danger of the creature trying to be born yet again. At least, I think that’s the danger.
Moore’s writing style is really what does this one in. He’s writing about teenagers so he tries to adopt their mode of thinking and speaking, and it just falls flat on every page. Not a single character in this story is well defined, despite the lengthy back-story that’s given (often multiple times) detailing their history together. They just don’t feel real; they feel like they’re there only to facilitate a story Moore felt like telling without any defined idea of what would go on within.
The tone of the novel is all over the place. Right when you think a character, Chris for example, is going through some kind of serious emotional moment (dealing with the death of his mother, his sister’s inability to be good), the next moment they’re acting like it’s not a big deal, and the entire impact of whatever reaction was meant to be elicited is gone forever.
It was a struggle to finish Rabid Growth, so many times the most ridiculous things were said, done or thought about by the characters that I just wanted toss the book across the room. In the middle of a monster battle, his little sister is forced to remove her shirt and Moore makes it a point to have her think “it’s not like I’m naked or anything”. You’re in the middle of fighting for you life against some kind of Lovecraftian beast, is that really going to be something that is A) even thought about and/or B) worth mentioning in the story? Ultimately it manages to take the reader out of the situation, something that happens again and again throughout.
It wasn’t all bad, but honestly the bad far outweighs the good. There are some interesting ideas, something to do with creatures from another dimension wanting to be reborn on earth or something along those lines (honestly, it all made little sense), but it’s all conveyed so badly through the actions of the characters and style of the author that you really don’t ever get a clear idea of why this is happening and why Corin’s so important in it all.
I guess will all good must come bad, and Leisure has certainly filled that quota with Rabid Growth. Moore’s writing reminds me a lot of someone who is trying a little too hard to show how well he can relate with his youthful characters, and it ends up just making the overall story one that, if you manage to make it to the last page, you’re probably going to forget very quickly.
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