Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by J.F. Gonzalez
Published by Leisure Horror
How, oh how, do I begin? How about with this simple statement: Survivor is probably one of the worst books I've ever read. And in no way, shape, or form do I mean that in a good way.
Unlikable characters, ridiculous scenarios, moronic villains and the situations they put themselves in; these are but a very few of the massive amount of problems with this book. Add to that Gonzalez’s apparent inability to write anything that could be considered believable dialogue and a serious, serious lack of editing, and Survivor rests comfortably at the top of my "Worst of All Time" list.
It starts off promisingly enough, though I’m sure a lot of other horrible things in history have as well. A young girl is meeting her neighbor’s wife for a torrid mid-day affair with lots of naughty B&D going on, titillating the reader just enough to keep you turning the page. The mistress then sucks out the girl's eyeball while she's suspended from the ceiling, and we cut to present day. Problem with this intro is that it doesn’t factor into the overall story hardly at all and is not even mentioned again until much, much later but only serves to both excited and sicken the reader.
Which is pretty much what I think Gonzalez’s goal was when he sat down to write this book. It’s like he had just finished a particularly explicit Ed Lee novel (not that there are any that I’ve read that aren’t) and wanted to one-up the man from start to finish.
So anyway, the actual story starts off with a man getting arrested for speeding after a fellow motorist calls in a citizen’s arrest. The man was on his way to a romantic getaway with his wife but ends up in jail for the weekend, and she has to spend the long weekend alone in a hotel. Or so she thinks. That first night the aforementioned motorist shows up at her hotel, knocks her out, and takes her to a secluded cabin where he tells her she’s going to be a part of an "extreme hardcore" (a phrase that is used so many goddamn times I wanted to hit someone every time I saw it on the page after a while) snuff film. As if there were any other kinds of snuff films?
She escapes, but not after having a long discussion with the man called Animal, who will be the one raping and killing her, about how he got involved in the scene and why he does what he does. This 10+-page scene is so ridiculous that it was almost enough to make me give up on the book right then and there. It was obviously put in as a way for Gonzalez to show how this sick mind worked and just how twisted he really was, but instead of using a narrative approach and telling the story as an author, he chose to have a drawn-out sequence in which the character just explains everything about himself to a complete stranger. A stranger he's about to rape and kill.
She escapes by luring the sickos with the promise of even more fresh meat, and then for a long time very little happens. She’s riddled with guilt about what she did to save her own skin, and the bad guys take way too long to track her down and silence her, giving a good hundred or more pages of space for yet more moronic dialogue and situations to occur within.
Bad stuff happens to everyone and some live, some die. Blah blah blah, the end. Seriously, I can’t believe I actually had the energy to write this much about it so far; that is how much I absolutely hated Survivor.
Editing is virtually nonexistent. The author uses the same words and phrases over and over again multiple times per page, chapter, section, etc., giving the impression that pretty much no one bothered to look through the book before they put it out to make sure it actually made any sense or had a good rhythm to it. Here’s an example of just how bad it was ... at one point a character is thinking about one of the people he suspects might be behind the snuff films, and the actual phrase he says to himself is, "If I had known he were into things this sick, I would have known!" Go ahead, read that again if it doesn’t seem quite right to you, I know I re-read it a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed a word or two.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say this book is just flat-out terrible. Gonzalez seems like he was trying to make a book filled with the most disgusting and vile things you can imagine two humans doing to one another, but all that loses its impact because of the unlikable characters, bad writing, and the absence of any real editing throughout. Those that have read my book reviews before know how odd it is for me to say this, but if you’re looking for nasty sexual scenes and over-the-top gore sequences, go read an Ed Lee book instead. At least he’s got a good editor.
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