CR3 #83: Castaways by Brian Keene

I know, I know, it’s been ages since I’ve popped by to babble incoherently about what I’ve been reading. My only excuse is that work has been madness. (Speaking of work — word of advice to you gentlemen in the audience: If you are age 50 or above, be sure to talk to your doctor about starting to screen for prostate cancer every year. It’s a simple blood test, and the earlier prostate cancer is detected, the more easily and successfully it can be treated. For you gentlemen between 17 and 50: Feel your balls. You are in the prime age group for testicular cancer, another disease that can be treated fairly simply and successfully if detected early. *Shooting star graphic* The More You Know!) Since I need to get 22 reviews in before the end of the year in order to make my Double Cannonball, I guess I’d better get cracking. I can’t promise genius literary criticism, but I’ll do the best I can.

Castaways by Brian Keene is the story of a group of people left on an island for a Survivor-type show. Unfortunately, as it turns out, they aren’t as alone as they’d originally thought. There are natives on the island, and they are very unfriendly.  The main characters, Jerry and Becka, are about as bland and All-American as you would imagine, and the rest of the show’s participants all fit into their own stereotypes…not unusual, because it’s explained that they were actively cast that way. The plot isn’t anything special–there’s some creepy things in the jungle, they’re mean, furry, and hungry. A big storm is coming. The castaways have to try and survive both those external threats as well as the threats that they pose to each other. It’s a little more gory and a lot more rape-y than I prefer my horror fiction.

It’s interesting to compare this to Andrew Foster Altschul’s Deus Ex Machina. Although both books have the same very basic plot–reality television run amok–Altschul has more of an introspective perspective. His work spends more time analyzing the effects of reality TV on the participants and the audience, wondering how each reflects on and changes the other. This book, on the other hand, was just a horror story. There was no real thought about reality television, no statement to be made. The reality show was just a plot set-up designed to get a bunch of attractive, treacherous young people alone on a deserted island to have sex, be terrified, and be sliced to bloody ribbons. While I don’t always look for (or even want) a deeper meaning to my fiction, I feel like an opportunity was missed here. The thing is, I wouldn’t have noticed the missed opportunity if the writing had been better–I don’t always need a “message” but I do always want a good, solid, entertaining, engrossing story.


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