Thursday, July 5, 2012

Urban Gothic by Brian Keene


On their way home from a concert six surbanites find themselves lost in Philadelphia with a broken down car.  When they are approached by a group of young black males they flee for safety into an old abandoned house. 

“Kerri had the impression that if she reached her hand out, the darkness would bbe a tangible thing, capable of sticking to her fingers like tar.”


 Brian Keene’s Urban Gothic is a brutal nearly nonstop grueling horror experience.  Before the first chapter is complete the six kids are in the house, and shit hits the fan.    There is absolutely no safety once in the house.  The teens are in constant danger with the smallest of respites between the attacks from the deformed humanoids within. 

The atmosphere of the story is the real star in this novel.  Every aspect of the house from the sounds smells and feels (the kids frequently find themselves in total darkness) are thoroughly and fully realized.  The creatures dwelling within are some of the most heinous creations in horror fiction bare none. 

One aspect of the story I appreciated the most was the will to survive of the entire cast.  There were no throwaway kills from the cast and it created a much bleaker atmosphere when the kids do everything right (except going into the house) and still end up dying horrible deaths. 

The kids were also a clear weak point as they were not as well developed as the casts of most of Keene’s other works. This is clearly an effect of starting the horror with such speed and fervor, but I can see it irritating some readers.  That is not to say the cast are 2D stock characters.  Their backgrounds are slowly filled in, however compared to other Keene novels they were the least defined characters he has created to my knowledge. 

The story bounces between the kids trapped within the building and the teens outside who are the indirect cause of their flight, trying to save them.  This was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel and was an interesting  technique to break up the near constant action from within the house. 
In the end;

Brian Keene’s Urban Gothic is one of the most relentless tense grueling horror novels I have ever read.  With an atmosphere I could reach out and touch combined with a tough group of survivors this novel will not disappoint those looking for a brutal action packed survival tale. 

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