Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Officer's Log No 19: Creepy, Eerie and Oh-So-Cool, Part 3

This week's entry is Body Surfing, a very strange, weird novel from Dale Peck. The basic story involves demons that jump from body to body, two teenage boys, one of whom becomes possessed, and a Croatian demon huntress who comes to save the day. It's not the easiest book to describe, even for supernatural fiction standards (and are there such things?), and the opening sequence, set in ancient Rome, suggesting that the Emperor Nero was possessed by one of these demons... well, it starts off weird and gets stranger. So far, the story is pretty typical, but I absolutely love the characters.

Peck's three main characters are Jasper, a shy, laid back teenager, his best friend Q., the more impulsive of the two, and the huntress, Ileana, who reminds me, as I'm sure Peck intended, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, minus the extreme angst. She's tough, refreshingly unsympathetic to the things she hunts, and comprehends from the get-go that she is a soldier in a war, and therefore she must shut off the more emotional aspects of her personality and get her hands dirty, with no apologies. Compared to the teenage boys, she's the adult center of the novel, the responsible one, and the novel itself is very, very mature, as far as content is concerned.

A note: this is not fluffy supernatural fiction; it starts as a coming-of-age story, and before you know it, it's a full on horror novel. I wasn't quite prepared for it when I started reading the book, because it seemed fairly silly, after the delicious eerieness of Jennifer McMahon's Promise Not To Tell, and the thoroughly unpleasant events of Gillian Flynn's Dark Places. So, imagine my pleasant surprise, and slightly turning stomach, when I started reading Dale Peck's novel.

It's gory; very, very gruesome at points. I'm not one for extreme blood and guts in my literature, and this initially threatened to turn me off, but once I met Peck's characters, I was hooked. He's got a simple story when you break it down, but the characters and the liberal doses of humor throughout the novel keep it going at a good pace. There isn't a slow moment that I've found. So, compared to last week's offering (to which I am resorting to somewhat mixed feelings) I feel like I can recommend Body Surfing to just about anyone who wants a good, creepy novel to read.

Until next week, fellow Bibliophiles.

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