Book Review: Red by D.J. Doyle
Review by Chantal Boudreau
I have to start this review by clarifying that I’m a horror fan, but I’m not normally inclined to extreme horror. I have read and written it in the past, but it’s not my preferred sub-genre, tending more towards less graphic, psychological horror. That being said, if you’re a reader who loves stories with intense shock value, you’ll probably love this novella. It has character depth, a multi-layer plotline and does not rely strictly on standard tropes (I appreciate the fact that the narrator’s latest target, Amanda, is not a doormat damsel in distress.) It also offers up plenty of graphic sex and violence.
You also might enjoy the intro to the story. For a hook, it gives the reader a taste of the kind of extreme horror you can expect through the rest of the novella, and a glimpse at Amanda, before leading into the main character’s background. I suspect it’s meant as a teaser, but my personal preference is to have the background information first so I understand a character’s motivation and feel more invested in the story.
I liked the way the character background is quite detailed and while I wouldn’t say I sympathized with the main character, this part of the story really did help me understand why that character was so broken – why he associated violent sex and pain with love, why he acted on primarily a selfish survival level and why he didn’t empathize with others. I also like the way the story was dotted with his thoughts about his prior victims. You get an idea of how he developed as a serial rapist/killer as well as why he prefers certain features in his victims over others (like tanned skin, for example.)
Each exploration of his encounters reveals his observations and impressions of his prior victims and how they impacted him. He shares this with Amanda and they form an unexpected bond.
I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it was quite refreshing and far from predictable. I’m usually good at picking up on foreshadowing, but this one surprised me.
Overall, I enjoyed this read. Some of the extreme graphic scenes distracted from the story a bit for me, but the characters were interesting and the story was entertaining, I would give it four out of five stars.
Aside from being a long-time fan of the zombie genre via books, movies and now TV, Chantal Boudreau began her existence as a published author with a zombie short story named “Palliative” in an anthology called “Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts – Oh My!” published by Notreebooks. This was followed by the publication of several other zombie shorts: “Just Another Day”, “Waking the Dead”, “Escarg-0”, “Life and Undeath on the Chain Gang,” and “One Lonely Night” in the May December Publications’ anthologies “First Time Dead, Volume 1”, “Hell Hath No Fury” (all women writers), “Zero”, “Zombie Lockdown” and “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death” as well as “What a Man’s Gotta Do” in the anthology “Undead Tales” from Rymfire Books and “Deadline” in the anthology “Zombie Buffet” from Open Casket Press. She has done extensive research for her blog series “Chantelly’s Field Guide to Zombies” and a non-fiction article on Zomedy – the dark humour in zombie fiction. She is currently shopping a full zombie novel, Sleep Escapes Us, set in ancient Thrace and involving the myths surrounding the death god, Zalmoxis.