Jason Bovberg, Blood Red (Permuted Press, 2014)
full disclosure: a copy of this book was provided to me free of charge by the author.
I could tell you that I stayed up well past my bedtime the first night I dug into Blood Red, the first book in Jason Bovberg’s trilogy of the same name, to see if I could get to the halfway point before passing out. (I did.) I could tell you I skipped meals on the second day I was reading Blood Red because I had every intention of finishing it. (I did.) I could tell you that soon after I finished it, I posted on Bovberg’s wall and did something I have never, ever done before: asked him if I could alpha-read the second book in the trilogy. (I will. Despite the fact that I warned Jason that I used to be a professional proofreader and never got out of the habit.) Instead, I think I’ll just tell you that if you’re a fan of good, solid horror novels, you need to get your hands on a copy of Blood Red pronto.
Rachel wakes up one Saturday morning, after having a fight with her father the night before over staying out too late with her boyfriend, and discovers that the world has gone to hell. Somewhat literally. A peek into her father and stepmother’s bedroom reveals that Susannah, the stepmom, has suffered some sort of horrible trauma—and touching her causes Rachel to have some problems as well (that will haunt her throughout the novel). As if that weren’t bad enough, when she goes outside to try and find help, she discovers that her stepmother is far from the only person who’s having a problem. In fact, by the time she’s started coming up with any sort of plan, she’s half-convinced she’s the only living person left in Fort Collins, Colorado. That turns out not to be the case—she and Alan, a neighbor she never knew beyond nodding, find a young girl with far more extensive damage than Rachel and head to the hospital with her, where they discover a small band of survivors. Just when everything has calmed down a bit and they all turn their minds to figuring out what’s going on…the legions of dead start twitching.
No, it’s not a zombie novel, despite Permuted’s name being on the spine. (I won’t tell you what it is, but I came to the conclusion the characters do towards the end of the book around page ten or so.) The reanimated dead have a few zombie-like qualities, but you will rapidly come to think of them more like the zombies in David Moody’s first Autumn novel, before they start getting mad at the living, when they’re still just wandering around looking emo. The zombie-novel structure is there, but Bovberg does some very interesting things with it—things that, when you pause to consider them, make perfect sense. He also takes the tack of writing a book that straddles the line between adult and YA, and that strikes me as a very good move in today’s book culture. (For the record, while I couldn’t tell which market he was actually aiming for the entire length of the book, during the last chapter I tilted slightly towards adult—despite said last chapter being exactly what one would expect from a YA novel. I still haven’t quite figured out my thought process there yet.)
As far as downsides go, well, I can’t think of terribly many. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a few of the minor characters fleshed out more, though whenever I have the criticism of the first novel in a series, I always assume they will get developed later on. There are a few stylistic choices I would have made differently, but that’s always a personal thing and your mileage is guaranteed to vary. This is a solid trilogy début, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing if the next two books are just as good. *** ½
How much do I like this book? You know how much I hate book trailers, but I am showing you this one.