Deep in the wilderness of Humboldt County in Northern California lies a pot farm where a young woman named Rebecca wants to teach her five-year old daughter how to live off the land. Along with her boyfriend Calendula, they are helping a man named Coyote who is growing marijuana and is in need of help harvesting it. Calendula and Rebecca are hoping to live the hippie lifestyle and get enough money together from the harvest to buy their own farm.
It won’t be an easy task, living close by is Diesel Dan who helped start the farm and Coyote owes money to. Dan lost everything due to drugs and a stint in prison, but now he looks to make amends for his past and set an example for his soon to be born granddaughter. Coyote is strung out on pills and barely keeping his head above water and he wonders if he can come up with the money to pay everyone. To make matters more complicated the farm is home to an old legend and the ghost of a boy who is looking for a playmate.
Kind Nepenthe by Matthew Brockmeyer is a story about what happens when you dream big and reality slaps you in the face. All of the characters in this story make decisions that they hope will make their lives better but each decision comes with drastic consequences. For instance, we have Rebecca and Calendula who are working hard to get the money together for a farm but they have to deal with things like Coyote disappearing and threatening not to pay them and several other problems. They both get to the point where they wonder if all of this is worth it and their personalities start to change with Rebecca wondering if she ever cared for Calendula in the first place.
Another interesting character is Coyote who is regularly thinking of the wife and kids he left and you see how the drug lifestyle he has led has ruined him. I also enjoyed the relationship between Diesel Dan and his son. Dan is hoping he doesn’t follow in his footsteps as a drug dealer but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree even though Dan is trying hard to change. My favorite part of this book was watching all of the characters deal with the pressure of their lives falling apart.
Whether you like Kind Nepenthe depends on what you are looking for in a story. As a human drama, this book is excellent, I loved all the characters including the ones that do bad things such as Diesel Dan’s son. The book is sold as a ghost story though and it felt like that was an unnecessary part of the book. While there is a ghost and some elements of horror here it didn’t add anything to the plot and I felt that if you took out the supernatural parts it would have been better. All in all, though this was a really good read and I’m looking forward to more from Matthew Brockmeyer in the future.
In the English countryside lies the small town of Hambleton where tourists come to get away from the big city. Life changes for the village when an earthquake awakens a hungry and horny cryptid from a 60+ year hibernation. Now the monster is killing everyone in its path and the only ones who may be able to stop it are a group of potheads, a former Nazi, and a bigfoot hunter.
The story in The Lucky Ones Died First by Jack Bantry is a pretty simple one, a creature is on the loose and no one seems to be able to stop it. The descriptions I read this book called it splatterpunk and compared it to the work of Richard Laymon, who was one of my favorites. Going into it I thought that the whole point of this story was to be as gross and offensive as possible. The problem is that the book isn’t descriptive enough to be that offensive. The story has several characters and a monster that aren’t described in much detail. The plot moves along at the speed of a freight train and it’s over before you know it. It felt more like a detailed outline than a real story.
I’m not saying that The Lucky Ones Died First is a bad book, I’m just saying that it could have been a lot better if the characters were given more description. I didn’t know enough about anyone in this story to feel emotion for them. It kind of felt like the author was embarrassed and didn’t want to go into a lot of detail, so the sex and death scenes suffered for it. There was a lot of potential in this story and if it had another 100 pages or so it could have been a great horror tale.
The Lucky Ones Died First does have some fun moments though, for instance, the two closing scenes put a huge smile on my face. This book has the feel of a cheesy blood-soaked monster movie. If it was a movie I would have loved it but as a book, I wanted more. All this being said there were enough good ideas in this book to make me want to read whatever novel Jack Bantry comes up with next.