Retired Lawman George Peters a survivor of Off Season is called upon to help hunt down the feral cannibals that escaped from him over a decade ago as children, and its a race against time. The “family” decide to hunt David Halbard, his wife Amy and newborn Melissa. To complicate matters Amy’s old friend Claire and her son Luke are up for the weekend seeking refuge in their rural home from an abusive spouse.
“Two of them perched on the counter by the sink. Squatting, staring at her, eyes unnaturally bright. Their dangling arms covered in blood.
While Nancy (her daughter) lay naked on the butcher-block table.”
Jack Ketchum’s sequel to Off Season, Offspring deviates little from the original in format and style. A reader of the first will immediately recognize familiar beats and be able to predict the setting of the final scenes. Despite this Offspring is still an entrancing read. This is due to Ketchum’s undeniable talent. Part of his predictability comes from being unpredictable. The simplest and most inescapable rule of a Jack Ketchum book is that there are no limits and anything, or nothing can happen. Jack Ketchum’s style is a straight forward, never shirking narrative. Each event in the novel is written clearly and simply. This allows the reader to truly judge each action for him/herself.
The novel is broken into three perspectives. The cannibal family, the hunted and law enforcement’s response. Ketchum creates tension from giving his readers more information than his characters. The cannibals are fleshed out human characters that Ketchum ensures are never deserving of the readers sympathy. Each cannibal has a distinct personality, dreams and motives. This gives the horde of killers unique attributes and keeps the readers surprised and the simple plot from becoming dull.
The hunted consist entirely of average sympathetic people that you either resemble or know someone who does. One of the novels strengths is that none of the characters are overly strong and heroic, nor foolish and weak. Readers searching for a strong bad ass maternal protagonist will find two in Amy and Claire.
George Peters a sheriff and survivor of Off Season unofficially leads the search and rescue mission. George knows what is going to happen and he knows how to stop it, it is only a matter of learning where he needs to go.
In the end;
Offspring is without a doubt a retread for Ketchum over familiar territory. While he does not add anything new to the town of Dead River, he never detracts from the original. Those who enjoyed the original will find much of the same. Those unfamiliar with Off Season are in for an incredibly shock. Offspring is a worthy sequel, but never surpasses the original.
Extra note, a film version of Offspring was recently released that is never good, or bad and this is its flaw. A sequel written by Jack Ketchum and directed by Lucky Mckee titled The Woman was recently completed.