I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Flesh Worn Stone

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Flesh Worn Stone
by John A. Burks Jr.

Plot Summary:
Steven Alexander, simple suburbanite, loving father and husband, is thrust into a world of violence and slavery beginning with one brutal night where, during a home invasion, his sons are murdered in front of him. He and his wife Rebecca are then kidnapped, drugged, and taken to an uncharted tropical island where they awake on a pristine beach in the company of five strangers.

The island is prison and it’s residents are both the guards and prisoners. They are participants in the Game, a modern-day rendition of the Coliseum of ancient Rome, where they must compete in acts of murder, rape, and self-mutilation for the amusement of an unseen wealthy elite. Contestants must survive five times to earn their freedom from the island horrors. Losers become the evening meal.

Steven struggles to survive in a world where violence is not only accepted but cheered. He fights to hold on to his wife, Rebecca, in a community where cannibalism is survival, brutality is affection, and living another day is at the expense of his own soul. Survival comes with a price, however, and he soon learns that not only are not all of the players in the Game unwilling participants, but those who have volunteered to play the Game have paid a horrible admission price.

Expectations:  I'm not really into straight horror novels.  I've read the occasional Stephen King and maybe that's about it.  So I wasn't sure about accepting this novel for review from the author, but, very shallowly, I saw the cover and decided I wanted to give it a try.  The cover is just so good! Claustrophobic horror, with the insidiously menacing title glaring over it.  A cover is so important really.  So from that I was expecting a story that would get under my skin with a stark, emotional horror.

This story is brutal and violent, and it shows the very ugliest of human nature. Fair warning to the faint of heart. Pretty much everything bad that can happen to a person, happens here and at first I thought this novel was going to be an exercise in the value of shock carrying a story.  Thankfully there is an underlying message about humanity that is delved into and examined.  The deep horror that would get into my psyche wasn't in evidence in the beginning though.  I think true horror stems from going through the experience with a character you are invested in, and seeing how it changes them.  Or rather damages them.  Flesh Worn Stone gets pretty gruesome pretty quickly, but soon I became numb to it, gratuitous as it is, and I think it could have had a more lasting effect had it been more gradual and we had found out more about the innocent characters in the novel first.

This isn't to say the novella doesn't make an impact.  Once you start to realize which of the characters in the book volunteered to play the Game, the story takes a more disturbing turn, as characters you think you know are either damaged or revealed by the Game.  That is more disturbing to me than the actual acts committed.  (Though it's really a fine line between which is more disturbing!)  The main character, Steven, is the only hope for the reader that everything will be okay, as I wanted it to be, and his pursuit of the truth of the Game was what carried me through the rest of the book, as the suspense of finding out what was behind this horrible community kept building.  The dangling question left at the end, however, did not seem sufficiently set-up character-wise, because Steven seemed much more clear-seeing than to be moved by the feeble rationale for the nobility of the Game.  But I rate this book pretty highly because of the thought-provoking exploration of humanity's drive for survival and their capacity for adaptation.  And the denouement of the novel is entirely satisfying except for the small dangling question in the end.
review copy kindly provided by the author 
Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter

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  1. Hi Charlene, thanks for stopping by my blog! I am now following you also :)
    All the best! Sarah

  2. Hi Charlene, thanks for stopping by my blog! I am now following you also :)
    All the best! Sarah

  3. This book seems great! Will add to my list for this summer.
    Thanks for sharing.
    By the way I'm one of your new follower.