"Just Add Water" Book Review
Written by Shane D. Keene
Published by Kensington Publishing
Written by Hunter Shea
2017, 91 pages, Fiction
Released on June 13, 2017
Whenever I hear the name Hunter Shea, my ears perk up and my nostrils flare with the sweet olfactory taste of maniacal violence and rivers of blood. Since he became the go-to Monster Man for most of his fans, he’s consistently delivered his brand of brutal atrocities, balls-to-the-wall action, and damn good storytelling without failure and his newest book, Just Add Water, continues that trend in spades, only it goes a few steps further. Hard as that is to believe, it’s true. Hunter said he designed the length and pace of to be readable over the course of two number twos, and he met his goal pretty much perfectly. I zipped through this ninety page gore-fest in a single sitting and I dare you not to do the same.
I remember those lazy summers of boyhood, hanging with my friends and just wasting time as teenagers are wont to do. And one of the things I recall most fondly is comic books. My friends and I collected and devoured everything we could get our hands on, whether DC, Marvel, or whoever was buzzing the loudest at the time. And I remember the ads for cheesy, worthless items that my young mind fantasized about, things that likely were trash but my fresh imagination turned into magical things of larger than life proportions. So, I related perfectly when Patrick and David, the protagonists in Just Add Water, marveled over and, without their parents’ knowledge, spent their money on the “sea serpents” that became the meat of this insane story. But our common experience parts ways here as magic turns to madness and the biting off of faces and splattering of viscera begins.
When Hunter Shea decides it’s time to start mangling and maiming, which he does early in the story, he’s not a quiet or pensive kind of guy. He doesn’t merely make suggestions for you to infer violence from, as some horror authors do. No, he paints the streets, buildings, walls, and ceilings in vivid technicolor shades of red, invoking chaos and in your face, shocking savagery and breathless action, hurling you headlong into the midst of this wild run through one long day in the lives of two innocent and ultimately heroically brave young boys as they try to undo the damage that’s been done and save their hometown from the terror they’ve unleashed. It’s a tongue-in-cheek tale that’s driven by action and often delightfully gratuitous gore and extreme monster mayhem that rivals even the most over-the-top Sunday matinee creature features.
One of the things that stands out about a lot of Hunter Shea’s work, that never ceases to impress me, is an uncanny ability to create characters that you’re almost instantly connected with. In the shorter pieces like this he manages, with little or no backstory, to build people you know and relate to; not because he’s told you about them, but because, in some fashion or another, you were them once upon a time. He draws on the experience of being human in American suburbia with such alacrity and familiarity that he could be describing you or one of the people you grew up with, so not only do you know these figures intimately, you care deeply about them and you’re emotionally invested in their fate. But when it comes to murdering your darlings, Shea is a cold-blooded psycho killer and nobody is safe in any of his stories. You never know when one of your favorites is going to suddenly and unexpectedly transition from breathing and laughing to bleeding and dead.
Fortunately for his readers, Just Add Water is the first in a trio of these short, exceptional little romps known as “Mail Order Massacres.” The second and third are releasing in August and October respectively and are available for preorder on Amazon right now. Which is outstanding news because they’re like literary potato chips: once you’ve read the first one you’ll have a massive craving for more of the mayhem, brutality, and hilarity that is Hunter Shea’s signature and his stock-in-trade. This one gets a five-star rating for the sheer fun of it.