Sunday, June 24, 2012

Burden Kansas (Alan Ryker)

My apologies for the recent delay in posting. It's wedding season (other people's, not mine), and I've been traveling on most of the weekends that I haven't been working. Finally playing catch-up with my own life now =)

Overall: 4.4
  • Plot: 5/5
  • Originality: 4.5/5
  • Language: 3.4/5
  • Believability: 4.8/5
Burden Kansas by Alan Ryker

Vampires are not sexy or sensitive.

Hungry, bloody and stinking of the grave, they hunt the dry Kansas plains, taking what they want until they cross rancher Keith Harris. Keith is a damaged man who's always made the hard decisions others couldn't. As the two forces battle for survival, the lines between man and monster begin to blur. How much of a community's burden of sin can one man take on before becoming a monster himself?

With Burden Kansas, Alan Ryker provides a contemporary novella of vampire horror written in the minimal voice of the western. Burden Kansas is more entertaining, disturbing and thought-provoking than you thought a vampire western could be.
Genre: Horror
Purchase Links:
Kindle US | UK
Paperback US | UK
Other Links:
author website

In a small town in Kansas, cattle are getting attacked. Some are torn apart, while others get away with a little blood loss and some strange sort of virus. The target of the contagion isn't bovine, after all: it's human. Keith Harris, an angry man with a weak sense of self control, is the first to come across the vampires, and his actions set off a twisted chain of events that delves into the darkness lurking within us all.

For a novella of its limited length, Burden Kansas does a superb job setting up its characters and fleshing out pasts through passing comments and very brief explanations. The mix of man and monster in Keith's psyche is superbly done, and one is as horrified as one is sympathetic with the choices he has made over the course of his life. Dennis's fear and impotent sense of rage feels genuine, and it is this understanding of everyone's motivations that make the events in this supernatural story wholly believable.

The story itself is told in short, choppy prose, which the author has described as "the minimal voice of the western." It is indeed minimalist, which sets and edgier tone to the tale and blends well with Keith's voice and perspective. It does lend itself to some redundancies, and I would have appreciated more diversity of word choice, but as a whole, the style works quite well.

One of the main advantages of this story, I believe, is that the content was suited to its length. The story moved along steadily, and the final denouement, while somewhat open-ended, felt conclusive enough. The book makes for a quick, interesting read, though it may be a little too dark for an afternoon at the beach.

(Review copy provided by the author)


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