Book Review: Victims By Shaun Hutson

I love this 70s style horror. Even though this was written in 1987, it has a very earthy British graphic horror feel to it very reminiscent of the earlier work of James Herbert. There’s something very honest, grounded and realistic about its gritty feel and it’s something I feel we have lost in modern horror fiction which has become glossy and in a way – quite sanitised. Some reviewers have described it as “pulpy” and it certainly hearkens back to a bygone age.

Frank Miller is a special effects designer, world famous and in demand from Hollywood using the best available designs for the film industry, Horrifyingly, something goes wrong with one of his inventions and he ends up in a hospital… not quite sure what is going on, he gets snippets of conversation here and there and it turns out he has lost the use of his eyes. All is not lost though, a trailblazing surgeon is offering to try out experimental surgery to give him an eye transplant. Frank goes for it but what happens next is where the story truly begins.

At first all seems normal… and then the blackouts start…

There is also a killer on the loose, killing women and mutilating their bodies horifically that they appear to be a homage to Miller’s work, and they are each murder a copycat of a famous British murderer of the previous few decades. Are the eye transplant and the killings linked?

Frank Miller thinks so and it seems his new eye can tell him who is going to be next.

At under 300 pages, I was concerned it would feel a little too short. It’s paced quite nicely though and Hutson knows how to get down to the nitty gritty of a story. There’s no lengthy character building or story setting here, no long ponderous reflections on the nature of the character’s life and where he thinks it is going, no dense back story to give us context – no, Hutson has a story to tell us and he just gets right to it. Not that the characters are one dimensional, they are not, but they are identifiable.

Some say that horror has become too sanitised, others say that it tries to take itself too seriously. Those arguments are not invalid – if you are one of those who feel that way then this is the sort of book that might be for you.

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