While I enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, I am not what one might consider an outdoor enthusiast. I've been camping exactly once. Well, technically twice if you count the first attempt that was aborted about an hour into arriving at the camp site in favor of getting a hotel room instead. I enjoy air conditioning, clean bathrooms, and showers that are neither filthy nor coin operated far too much to ever consider roughing it again for an extended period of time. And while my single experience with camping wasn't exactly as bad as I had imagined (we didn't get eaten by bears or slaughtered by a Predator), it's not something I'm in a hurry to ever do again. Books like Edward Lorn's Fairy Lights and Jason Parent's They Feed only serve to reinforce my non-camping attitude and help justify why I think this whole mode of vacationing really isn't much of a vacation at all.
Fresh out of prison after six years, Tyler returns to the Kansas campground that turned his life upside down and inside out. When he was sixteen, Tyler accidentally shot and killed another boy. Now out of lock-up, Tyler can't help but return to the murder site. Following him is the dead boy's sister, Dakota, who has reasons of her own for being in the park...reasons that get interrupted by a pair of campers who come under attack by a swarm of mysterious, bloodthirsty creatures. Trapped in a cabin and surrounded, Tyler and Dakota, and a handful of other visitors, must endure the invading monstrosities and survive the night.
They Feed is a pretty straightforward creature feature that blends together a few familiar horror tropes. You've got the cabin in the woods, a siege invasion, a cast of human characters with few reasons to trust one another, and a whole heaping mess of monsters. It feels a bit like a slasher flick crossbred with The Blob, or the season one episode of The X-Files, "Darkness Falls." All this works together to make a pretty damn good read.
Parent's creatures are an interesting creation, a leech-like horror that packs plenty of terror in its singular form, but that can also work together and coordinate its attacks. They're viciously violent, and Parent gives us a number of grotesque scenes that work wonderfully well to illustrate just how screwed all these campers, hikers, and visitors are.
Thankfully, They Feed also has a good number of interesting characters to keep us invested. One couple finds themselves lost in the woods, in addition to living in the midst of a perpetual marital spat, and a group of frat boys help create a few unexpected alliances between survivors, particularly Dakota and Tyler. United by death, Dakota and Tyler are certainly the most intriguing pair of characters here, and their relationship yo-yos through a number of ups and downs as they attempt to live through the night.
The creatures in They Feed sure are hungry, and you don't want to accidentally find yourself on the menu. Action-packed and delightfully gory, Jason Parent delivers a solid reminder to stay out of the woods.
[Note: I received an advance reader's copy of The Feed from Sinister Grin Press via Hook of a Book Media and Publicity.]
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