"The Lucky Ones Died First" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Deadite Press
Written by Jack Bantry
2017, 108 pages, Fiction
Released on June 1st, 2017
One of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of Deadite Press is that, regardless of what I just read/am currently reading, picking up one of their titles is a surefire way of reminding myself how much fun horror fiction can be, especially that of the hardcore variety. Jack Bantry’s The Lucky Ones Died First is no different. Short, fast, ultraviolent, and more fun than van full of coked out clowns with shotguns, this is a novella that valiantly jumps headfirst into a subgenre that’s pretty much as full as zombie fiction is these days and proceeds to win the reader over with its straightforward storytelling and brilliant flashes of gore.
There is something big, scary, and hungry in the woods around the quaint English vacation town of Hambleton. Regular walks and hidden trysts alike are ending in bloodbaths thanks to a ravenous cryptid that’s on the loose. The creature, plucked straight from the impossible pages of a cryptozoology book, is on a rampage, and no one is safe. To put a stop to the madness, which began way before the current carnage, the residents of the town must come together and join forces with a former Nazi Bigfoot hunter who might be the only person who can ensure they stay alive. Ironically, staying alive is the worst thing that happens to some of the beast’s victims because his hunger for flesh goes beyond filling up his monstrous belly.
The most important thing about The Lucky Ones Died First is that it is a Jack Bantry book. For many authors, taking the Edward Lee route would have been easy here given the subject matter. However, Bantry decided to pull some punches in one regard and focus all his power on other areas instead of delivering exactly what you start to expect as soon as the action gets going. The result of not taking the route most travelled by is that the novella quickly becomes exactly what its author was meant to write: a celebration of splatterpunk that is all revival and as far from pastiche as possible. Between the growling, slobbering creature, the violent dismemberment, bloody action, tension, unnatural sex, and a scene involving a chainsaw that is worth the price of admission, this is a hell of a fun novella that fits perfectly in the Deadite Press catalog and tips its hat to the work of past splatterpunk maestros like John Skipp and David Schow.
I’ve had a few chats with fellow horror lovers recently about how many films and books forget the importance of pace no matter how good the story is. In this book, that is not an issue. Bantry jumps into his narrative at running speed and then accelerates. While some novellas deserve to be read quickly, this one demands it. The short chapters, nonstop action, and snappy dialogue comes together to create a literary creature feature that keeps all the good things of its genre and none of the bad. And that is a rarity when it comes to cryptid fiction.
Bantry, who edits the Splatterpunk zine, is obviously a connoisseur of the genre, but knowledge of a genre and actually delivering a satisfying read in that genre are two different things. In this case, the switch between editing hat and author hat is seamless and ends with a great debut that communicates one thing clearly: Bantry has the writing chops and passion for action-packed gore fests needed to be part of the pack of horror writers that are breathing new life into splatterpunk. The lucky ones will be the ones who read this, so get on it.