Saturday, June 1, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Sirens by Kurt Reichenbaugh

Just another Saturday night, sometime in the middle of that decade we call the 70's, when Disco was queen and shows like Charlie's Angels and Happy Days reigned on television. But there are no angels, happy days or dancing queens for four bored friends, Kevin, Brad, Nick and Otto, who go looking for action on a sweltering Saturday night and instead get themselves involved in murder. A murder that spins them into a twisted web of vengeful rednecks, psychotic cheerleaders, a missing flying saucer, a hybrid creature on four legs, a sadistic ghoul or two, and one lethal bad-ass babe in a leopard-skin bikini who just might give our friends more action then they'd ever dreamed of. Take a sweltering mix of swamp noir, drive-in grind house, sex and rock n' roll seventies style, and you've got what SIRENS is all about.



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Amazon Stars 5/5

I've never been to a drive-in movie, but I like to think Sirens belongs on a big screen with grainy video footage and audio that cuts out every few minutes. This book is a "throwback" in every sense of the word; a story that leaves you wondering how the "real" world could shatter so much innocence. Horror, as it relates to the inclusion of teenage characters, takes us on a ride through the nightmare-adventures we envisioned conquering; our need to feel empowered by realizing our greatest fantasies is a theme of our own young lives, and a concept Reichenbaugh uses to chilling effect to make his book come alive.

Fantasy is within reach, however; just as we can read the book and escape into the past with Reichenbaugh's well-crafted, concise sentences and subtle humor, the characters in this adventure flirt with their wildest dreams. The group of teenage boys who're forever ripped from their version of reality by a horrific event turn to an interesting young man who helps solely because he wishes to become like the fictional characters he idolizes; Otto is a stark contrast to the lustful dreams of his friends. The narrative is held together by the mystery behind the eerie powers and savage desires of Suzie and her companions.

Besides Otto, the boys seems fairly generic; I often had a difficult time distinguishing between the characters, but their desires helped me identify them as the story progressed. Reichenbaugh has a knack for creating an engaging setting with "evil" characters who're better written and more interesting than the "good guys." More details were used to distinguish Suzie and her twisted "friends;" I wanted to know more about them, and thankfully, some of the chapters ended quickly so I could get right back into the heads of the more twisted characters, or, specifically, Otto. The fast-pace of the chapters kept the story moving forward, while the author continued to leave a trail of breadcrumbs by allowing the characters to figure out what was happening--we're discovering the horror right beside them.

Mystery, innocence, and evocative antagonists infuse Sirens with the vitality of an endearing story that reminds us reading can be a fun experience--you'll keep turning the pages as if you're a hero from one of Otto's favorite pulp tales; eager to solve a puzzling question that leads to an unforgettable thrill-ride. There's enough here for an intelligent reader to respect and admire Reichenbaugh for his storytelling craftsmanship, and there's an entertaining story that left me eagerly awaiting the author's next book.