I’m a huge fan of horror, but the regurgitation of material within similar sub-genres is one of the biggest challenges within the industry, whether it be print or film. We’ve all seen the end-of-the-world zombie epidemic or the college kids going out into the woods and then chased by back-woods cannibals to the point that the set-ups themselves become cliche. It’s one of the reasons I typically steer clear of creature features as too often they’re derivative and offer very little I might consider “new” or original.
And then you have those artists – writers, directors, etc – who take the familiar but tilt the concept on its head, offering a fresh perspective on what you’ve come to know so well. The movie “Cabin in the Woods” is a brilliant example of this, subverting your expectations while still delivering the horror and fun you might expect from the genre. In my opinion, Kin, by Kealan Patrick Burke, is right up there with it.
First, Burke chooses a brilliant starting point for this story, one I’ve never seen done before: the book begins with the only survivor (as if often the case) making their way out of the forest AFTER having been caught and tortured and having barely escaped with her life. This is where every other story might end, but this is our beginning. What follows is the aftermath of not only the survivor but the group of “kin” from whom she’s escaped. And the trail of bodies of those who help our survivor along her way.
Burke does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between protagonists and villains, of building believable character motivations and then dashing our expectations to pieces. Not only is this a character-driven exploration of pain and guilt and revenge, it’s also just a lot of fun and there are several moments that will be embedded deep into your subconscious from the moment you read them until either the moment you die or your mind wastes away into stormy clouds of dementia.
Seriously, these horrors will stay with you.
More proof that Kealan Patrick Burke stands on the shoulders of the many authors trying to make it in this genre. For those who aren’t afraid of exploring the darkness, put Kin on the top of your must-read-list.