"Feral" Book Review
Written by Matt E. Lewis
Published by Vintage/Anchor Books & Blumhouse Books
Written by James DeMonaco & B.K. Evenson
2017, 256 pages, Fiction
Released on April 4th, 2017
Ever since the turn of millennium, horror fans and the public alike have been inundated with a flood of post-apocalyptic zombies – in the form of books, movies, games, TV shows, comics, and just about every other type of media imaginable. To state the obvious, it’s become a trope, one that our culture has integrated into its narrative. Thankfully, Feral is a novel that avoids the pitfalls of “just another zombie story” by adding an interesting twist. It sounds familiar at first – a virus escapes a lab and turns people into mindless creatures – but it only affects men. The men that survive the initial effects of the virus exhibit extraordinary strength and speed, and all aspects of their humanity are stripped away by a desire to kill. The women of the world are left to defend themselves against the “ferals”, their husbands and brothers and sons, who now only wish to literally tear them apart.
Allie is a typical high school girl, dealing with the day-to-day drama when the virus hits, and she witnesses firsthand its unforgiving effects. After watching her infected father murder her mother, she is forced to kill him to protect her little sister, Kim. Fast-forward years later, Allie and Kim are living in a small, well-protected stronghold populated by women, who raid the remnants of a collapsed society in order to survive and learn to eliminate ferals with cold efficiency. Some of the women, like Dr. Zeman, hold out hope for finding a cure to the virus by experimenting on the ferals Allie is able to capture. Others, like Jacky, could care less about the loss of men and only focus on defending what they have. Allie has become the best tracker and killer of the ferals in her camp, and it is during one of these tracking sessions that she realizes that the ferals are starting to behave differently. Rather than acting like mindless animals, they are organizing and growing in number, led by one she dubs “Scarface”. It’s up to Allie to find out the cause of this new behavior, and what she finds could mean the death of herself and everyone she knows.
Horror movie fans will recognize James DeMonaco as the creator of The Purge movies. Feral shares the same survival-at-all-costs feeling of those movies, where family or family-by-choice must resort to ultraviolence to protect their lives and those they care about. Horror book fans are probably familiar with B.K. a.k.a Brian Evenson, author of books like A Collapse of Horses and The Warren. Evenson’s writing style is also apparent in Feral, particularly in the description of the grotesque and the varying effects of trauma on the psyches of the women in the camp. Feral is well-paced but not too fast, with a tight storyline, solid character development, and a unique take on the post-apocalyptic survival story. The fact that the book is published in partnership with Blumhouse Productions (yes, that Blumhouse Productions) and that Evenson usually uses his initials when writing books that are also movie tie-ins (such as Aliens: No Exit) leads me to expect that we will soon be seeing Feral make the leap to the big screen. However, the book makes for some great summer reading, and I suggest you check it out first to get a leg-up on all those still walking with the undead.