First, the electricity goes—plunging the east coast in darkness after a devastating nuclear attack. Millions panic. Millions die. They are the lucky ones.
Next, the chemical weapons take effect—killing or contaminating everything alive. Except a handful of survivors in a bomb shelter. They are the damned.
HELL IS FOR HUMANS
Then, the real nightmare begins. Hordes of rats force two terrified families out of their shelter—and into the savage streets of an apocalyptic wasteland. They are not alone. Vicious, chemical-crazed animals hunt in packs. Dogs tear flesh, cats draw blood, horses crush bone. Roaming gangs of the sick and dying are barely recognizable as human. These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the tortures that tear families apart. This is hell on earth. The rules are simple: Kill or die.
About the Author
[This review is based on an advanced copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Hunter Shea's latest finds the Padilla family, and their neighboring couple, Buck and Alexiana, toughing out life in a post-apocalyptic Yonkers where, seemingly, everyone and everything wants them dead, right down to the skunks and racoons.
After a series of attacks on the US mainland force the Padilla's into Buck's bomb shelter, they emerge to find a radically changed world. A chemical assault has killed off most of the human population, and animals all across the spectrum - from racehorses to domesticated dogs and cats - have gone berserk. Venturing out into this brave new world for the first time, Buck and Daniel, the Padilla patriarch, are attacked by a tidal wave of rats, forcing everyone out of the bomb shelter and into this stark, new reality.
Shea is a proficient horror author and he drums up a few scenes here that are gut-twisting, including an early introduction into the horses gone wild and, later, a scene where Daniel and his wife, Elizabeth, are forced to confront a naked, knife-wielding lunatic with truly depraved intentions. The action is pretty frenetic and makes for a quick and propulsive read, with all kinds of different scenarios and variations on man vs. animal and man vs. man themes.
My only complaint is that, for me, the characters felt somewhat flat. We learn enough about them to feel comfortable as they're set off on their less-than merry way, and Elizabeth, a nurse, is called into action more than a few times, but we never really get to know their histories or the depths of their souls. The Padilla family is pretty large, which leads to most coming off as a bit one-note. Max is the angry teen, Gabby the scared the kid, Elizabeth the worried mother, etc.
Where I cannot fault Shea is in giving each character a great moment to shine. Their father, Daniel, gets a nice scene where he performs a necessary evil that would have been impossible for him to carry out in a more civilized world, and when a certain tragedy befalls Alexiana, her reaction and fears are suitably realistic. The ordeals endured by the Padilla's generate a solid dose of emotion and a few uncomfortable squirms that helps the material live up to the promise set forth in the title.
All in all, Tortures of the Damned is an entertaining read, with plenty of great action scenes, but not one in which I felt terribly invested in character-wise. Still, the climax is resoundingly exciting, punchy, and more than a little brutal. I definitely recommend that fans of post-apocalypse survival fiction give it a shot, particularly if you're looking for some zombie-free fare but one with a nice little spin on the typical tropes.