"The Fury" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Chicago Review Press
Written by John Farris
1976, 341 pages, Fiction
Released on October 1st, 2017
More often than not, on Friday nights I can be found over at fellow reviewer ZigZag's house having dinner and enjoying movies. We watch a variety of films, but mainly of the horror and/or cult genre, and rarely something within the past five years. Sometimes the movies are great, sometimes not, but it's always fun and recently one of the film choices was The Fury, starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Amy Irving. I had seen this many, many years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it holds up really well. So naturally I jumped at the opportunity to read John Farris' novel of the same name, upon which the movie is based, because not only did I not realize the book was a thing, we all know that the written counterparts to movies are almost always better. Almost being the operative word.
The Fury is a tough book to read, and it's going to be even more difficult to review. While it more-or-less follows the same theme of the motion picture, they are two very different beasts (think about how different The Shining book and film are and you get the idea). The last comparison I'll give of the two is where the book fleshes more of players involved out (as it should), all of the…gross parts of the novel are removed for the film.
Peter, an assassin by trade, is desperately trying to find his son, Robin, who has some wicked psychic powers. Through lies and deceit, Robin is convinced by a secret government branch (think The Shop from Firestarter) and of course they start weaponizing the boy. Oh, and there's also Gillian, a young girl born on the same day and time as Robin who has super powers as well. Naturally, they want her too. While the overall plot is simple, it does get overly dramatic and a bit convoluted at times for its own good. But that's not its problem.
Like I said, The Fury is a tough book to read, mainly because for every truly great part, there is an extremely uncomfortable moment that counters it. The way Farris writes female characters is cringe inducing, as they are basically around for either sex or abuse. At first, I chalked this up as a product of its time, but there are more than a few very questionable scenes with a 13-year-old Gillian when it comes to sex. For example, in one scene, Peter finds her in the hospital. She is in shock because of something traumatic that just happened, so after a few slaps (because that's how you calm down a hysterical woman), he pins her to the wall:
Gillian struck at him, then flinched when he brought his hand back. He kissed her instead, tenderly and with as much lust as he thought she might be familiar with at her age. Gillian found this new approach confusing, shocking and indefensible, and as she grew slack in his arms gradually the kiss became a comfort to her. With his own eyes close Peter readily lost awareness of her youth; the smug pressure of her uncovered cunt against his body was mature enough, even insinuating.
Again, he's the father of Robin. 40 is a fair bet on his age. She's 13. What the fuck.
Then, later at her home, her mom is disgusted by one of the dolls Gillian is playing with and the girl replies:
"What do you mean? I've always had Skipper," Gillian pulled the string that caused his lower jaw to move up and down in a mime of speech. Then she pensively touched his long cock with a fingertip. "He never had one like this, though. It was tinier, you know, cute and crooked, and sometimes it stuck up, sort of like the end of my little finger."
Robin isn't safe from this either; he's having sex with a woman over twice his age.
But here's the rub – no pun intended – when Farris isn't writing pedophilia fan fiction and using women as meat sacks, The Fury is a heck of a lot of fun. There's conspiracy, secret government agencies, car chases (both physical and mind controlled), shootouts and all kinds of action. Farris is definitely a skilled writer, but the issue comes the moment you become engrossed in the book and he throws in something gross and awkward taking you out of it. I had to put it down on more than one occasion because of the discomfort. I assure you, I'm no prude (I have a hard drive that is labeled "delete upon my death"…literally), but I do draw a line at sex with minors.
At the end of the day (or review, I guess), I'm in a predicament on whether or not to recommend it. On one hand, while it's not quite as good as Brian DePalma's famous film, there's plenty in it that makes for an exciting read. On the other, stomach turning scenes. This one's on you.