My first Kristopher Triana novel will NOT be my last. This is extreme horror done right.
Kim is a beautiful and popular 16-year-old cheerleader with suicidal thoughts and a general pessimism for life in general. She wants something new to change her perspective, to make her feel alive, and she decides that based on what her friends have been telling her, sex is the answer. But sex alone isn’t enough for Kim, who likes to set herself apart. Instead, she sets her sights on her sex-ed teacher and finds him all-too-willing after a few gentle nudges.
Nothing changes in her perspective, but she soon finds she quite enjoys making her teacher squirm in fear of being found out. What follows is an increasingly depraved descent into cruelty and madness, blood-soaked and full of fun twists.
I’ve read my share of extreme horror novels, and generally speaking, I like them. It’s rare that I LOVE one, but I usually have a good time. I often find that the writing or story or characters take a back seat to the moist squirts and disembowelments and the like in extreme horror, so I usually kind of treat them the way I would a popcorn action flick: turn my logic reactors off in my brain and just settle in for the fun.
However, FULL BRUTAL doesn’t suffer from ANY of these ailments. The writing was tight and flowed extremely well, the story was interesting and unique, and the characters all rang true, none more so than Kim, who tells us the story in first person, not shying away from any of the brutality and sadism she inflicts on those who think she’s their friend. What was fascinating to me was, as sick and depraved as this girl is, you find yourself rooting for her as her escapades get increasingly more vile and horrific. You don’t want her to get caught. You want her to figure out a way to deal with her ‘situation’ (no spoilers, read the damn book!). You want her to turn everything on its head and convince everyone she’s as innocent as she says she is. All while feeling like you need to run to the confessional for cheering on such rotten individual.
That’s the brilliance of this blood-soaked book: you’re rooting for the bad guy. You IDENTIFY with her. There’s a good deal of social commentary here, much like with Caroline Kepnes’s YOU (though infinitely more depraved), and Triana deftly weaves this into his tale of debasement and butchery. Watching as Kim manipulates literally EVERYONE to her whim and fancy is nothing short of brilliant, further adding to the appeal of this character who, by all rights, should be utterly reviled by any sane human being.
This isn’t what I’d call a slow burn, but it does take its time getting to the gory bits. However, there’s plenty of gooey goodness (or not-so-goodness) from the get-go, so the extremes are on display early here. But when the blood starts to flow, a mighty Amazon river of the red stuff floods the pages and does let up one iota through to the last page. In fact, it just keeps getting more and more and more intense and squirty and stomach-turning…all in the best possible ways.
The dialogue is good, the characters–especially Kim–are very well drawn and believable, the pacing is excellent, and it delivers in exactly the way you’d want an extreme horror novel to do: in dripping–and apparently delicious–chunks. There’s a good reason this gem won the 2019 Splatterpunk award. It earned it.
This is extreme horror, so reader beware if this is not your taste. The extreme content isn’t going to be for everyone. But, if you’re into this or think you might like to give it a try, I highly recommend this book to you. As far as extreme horror novels go, this would be my second favorite of all time, right behind (and I mean just a foot or two away) OFF SEASON by the late and great Jack Ketchum. It’s that good.
If this is a genre you enjoy, you’re in for a REAL treat…and Kim is a fine cook. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.