Zakk reviews “Tortures of the Damned” by Hunter Shea. 439 pages published by Pinnacle Books (Kensington Publishing).
Overall score: 4.5/5
“It only took a couple of weeks of deprivation of man’s creature comforts to devolve him to a near-animal state. The more pampered a society, the faster they crumbled.”
A family struggles to reunite after a strategic attack on New York. First an EMP wipes the land off of the grid triggering panic and chaos, second a chemical fog settles, bringing about death to all citizens not holed up in a shelter, turning all animals frenzied and ravenous.
After the haze settles and is washed away by the rain, the Padilla family and their neighbors venture out of their bunker. Searching for clues as to what happened and to seek medical help for eldest son Rey who had a glancing exposure to the contagion. Without a means of contact, and no way to know how widespread the epidemic, our group must survive crazed animal attacks and other brutal survivors to find answers.
“No one’s final resting place should be in the putrid belly of a garbage truck. Daniel made the sign of the cross over her and said a quick, silent prayer.
I’ll call the police when I get home.
It was the right thing to do, but he had a sinking feeling the old standards of right and wrong had been upended for the foreseeable future.”
Hunter Shea suggested that this book be enjoyed old school, in it’s physical form, small paperback versus digital reading. To bring back the vibe and the smell of the traditional reading experience. So that is what I did. I put my Kindle down and picked the physical copy up, carried it around with me everywhere. It took some wear and tear, I showed it some love. Worn corners, cracks in the spine, a smudge or two of dirt or food on the pages. And I think that was the point. A renewed connection to the art I love.
“Buck interjected, ‘Shit, people even need electronic devices to read a damn book now.'”
Right from the beginning this book grabbed me by the short hairs, tapping into one of my biggest deep seeded fears. That fear? Being separated from my loved ones when (and if) shit hits the fan. Not knowing where your children are, their welfare, or how you’re going to find your way to them in a national crisis would probably drop a shroud of crippling fear. So suffice to say that I started this book on edge.
I was expecting a non stop orgy of animal attack mayhem, what I got was a deep character, and family, driven drama, with a fair amount of animal attack mayhem. I love connecting with characters during a read, it transcends the reading experience. And this book has plenty of fully dimensional and lovable inhabitants. It also has some nasties. And boy, are they nasty.
There are plenty of anxiety filled altercations with the enraged animal populace, with the horse attacks being the best by far (and the kitten attacks being more tense that I would have expected), the there is also the human element to contend with, other survivors. Psychopathic creeps, opportunistic gangs, paranoid mobs. Fighting for survival the only way they know how.
How wide is this epidemic? City wide, that seems certain. State wide? Country wide, world wide? Is there help out there? Who knows. Perhaps there will be a continuation in the narrative at some point down the road. Perhaps this is just the end. What we get is one family’s journey through the new world. It’s tense, and at times, gut wrenching. I’m not going to lie to you, I teared up a couple of times. Not over anything big, just a couple of quiet emotional moments that hit me in the feels.
Hunter Shea is a big game writer. And with me he’s hit the mark every time. I have only read a handful of pieces from him but I’ll definitely have to start chipping away at his back catalogue when time permits. I am in, sign me up for the fan club, send me a patch.
I’d place “Tortures of the Damned” up with (not quite level to, but in the same ballpark) McCarthy’s The Road. It’s dark, it’s bleak, it’s heartbreaking and you won’t walk away with the answers you want or the sense of security you need.
“Seeing a professionally prepared corpse in a coffin was one thing. Finding half a neighbor sprawled out by their house was an entirely different experience. Dried, red ropes straggled out from where his stomach should be, looking like the man had been made of shredded cabbage.”
*I received and read a review copy from the publisher, these are my honest feelings.
Zakk is a big dumb animal.