First published back in June of 2014, ‘Sick B*stards’ formed the first of British author Matt Shaw’s extreme horror titles.  As detailed in the ‘Authors Note’ – Shaw originally penned the opening chapter of the novel to show fellow author Graeme Reynolds how sick his writing could get.  From that small corrupt seed blossomed this twisted novel, a sequel and a long line of equally extreme horror novels from Shaw which constantly push the boundaries of taste.

DLS Synopsis:
They’d woken up in the car.  Father surmised that the force of the blast must have knocked them all out.  That must have also been what took their memories too.  Some kind of reaction to the shockwave.  Whatever the reason – none of them knew who they were or why they were where they were.

Try as they might, as the days slowly passed by, their names never came back.  Father had found a photo in their luggage showing the four of them together.  A family.  Nevertheless, despite not being able to remember their names, they didn’t want to give themselves new ones in case their real names eventually came back to them.  So they stuck with the descriptive ones they’d been using so far – Father, Mother, Son/Brother, Daughter/Sister.

They’d found themselves a nearby house which they’d been hiding away in ever since.  Food was already getting low.  Soon they’d have no choice but to venture out in search of more supplies.  But Father was scared of looters.  In times like this he knew people often did whatever it took in order to survive.  People would steal and kill without remorse - just to last that little while longer.  So they had to be wary of others.  They had to stay hidden and stay alert.

They knew there were others out there.  Father and Son had already been attacked by one of the infected.  The man appeared to be rabid.  Discoloured flesh and messed-up eyes.  And such a rage.  They’d done what they had to do.  They’d done what anyone else would have done in order to survive.

But food was running out.  Tough decisions lay ahead.  Tough choices.  The old laws no longer meant anything.  It was time to cast aside morality and look at the bigger picture.  If they wanted to survive they would have to change.  And in doing that they knew nothing would ever be the same again…

DLS Review:
The opening chapter says it all.  From the very first page we’re subjected to a truly disturbing scene of graphic incestual sex before diving into some pretty damn gut-churning cannibalism.  Let the good times roll eh?!

Okay, let’s get the necessary warnings out of the way shall we.  As the cover proudly boasts – this is an extreme horror novel that’s not intended for those who are easily offended.  If you pick up this book you really should know what you’re getting yourself into.  Expect graphic (and I really do mean graphic) scenes of incestual sex, cannibalism and uncompromising violence.  If these things don’t make you grin with a worrying degree of delight then trust me - steer well clear of this book.  Folks – you have been warned.

For those that have perhaps ventured into extreme horror before.  Possibly the erotic horror offerings of Graham Masterton, the hard-boiled nastiness of Jack Ketchum, or the sordid perversions of David Owain Hughes – then you’ll be well acquainted with how corrupt such extreme horror novels can get.  That said, if you’ve already ventured into the sickness of Samuel R Delany’s ‘Hogg’ (1995) then fair do’s - ‘Sick B*stards’ will be a veritable walk in the park for you.

What we have here is a novel that, at its core, is really pushing the boundaries of taste.  From the very outset this objective is written all over the book.  Shaw’s clearly writing everything he can to make his audience squirm in their seat.  Incest does that.  He knows it.  We know it.  And so he lays it on thick!

However, underneath all of the shock value grimness is a surprisingly good story.  I say ‘surprisingly’ merely because those who’ve read the novel (mostly) only seem to ever refer to the shocking elements within the novel.  Never the quality of the story.  But the story in itself is well told and damn entertaining – with one hell of a gut-punch of a social message lurking behind it.

The bare bones of the tale is relatively simple.  What would happen if the powers that be dropped a whole heap of bombs and pretty much wiped everyone out?  Shaw’s vision is that those who survived would constantly have to contend with looters and infected.  But more disturbing still is the sudden breakdown in moral code.  All laws are now gone.  The world is suddenly a dog-eat-dog one where those that are willing to do whatever it takes to survive are the ones who will last the longest.  It’s not necessarily survival of the fittest - but survival of the sickest.

It’s a cracking reasonably well-tread premise that’s absolutely ripe for some gruesome pickings.  The incest element is Shaw’s own little angle on the situation.  You’re stuck in the confines of a small house literally 24/7.  You’ve got absolutely nothing to do.  And you have no recollection about those who are with you.  No emotional ties other than those that are now forming.  One thing gradually leads to another.  There’s comfort to be gained from intimate interaction.  But of course, Shaw just takes it those couple of hundred strides further, until we’re in Razzle ‘Letter of the Week’ territory.

Another interesting element with the story is with how Shaw’s structured it.  The story’s told from the perspective of Brother/Son in two different timelines – ‘before’ and ‘now’.  Throughout the length of the novel the story jumps back and forth between these two points in time – gradually piecing together all the parts to the story to finally bring the reader the full picture and the spectacular twist ending.

Personally I think the novel’s an absolute triumph of extreme horror.  Shaw has really attacked the concept of morality along with our deep-rooted instincts for personal survival.  Instead of dancing around the idea with an ink-dipped feather quill, Shaw’s gone straight in for the kill with a full-blown swing of a rusty axe.  There’s absolutely no bullshit here.  No namby pamby subtlety.  Zero padding.  And no flowery prose or time spent painstakingly setting the scene.  It’s condensed down, ultra-violent, gut-churningly brutal horror with one hell of a rotten core.

You want to read some sick shit?  You want something that’s designed to disturb and leave an unsavoury taste in your mouth?  Then this here novel’s probably just what the morally corrupt doctor ordered.  But do bear in mind, wanting to read this stuff will probably mean you’re as messed-up in the head as Mr Shaw undoubtedly is!

The novel runs for a total of 232 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Sick B*stards’ instalments:

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