Now I’m way beyond confusion.
Now I’m scared.
I’ve slid down the rabbit-hole and what’s down there is dark and serious. This is not play-acting or some waking bad dream she’s having. She’s changed, somehow overnight. I don’t know how I know this but I sense it as surely as I sense my own skin. This is not Sam, my Sam, wholly sane and firmly balanced. Capable of tying off an artery as neatly as you’d thread a belt through the loops of your jeans.
And now I’m shivering too.
In some fundamental way she’s changed…
For years Ketchum (Peaceable Kingdom) and Lee (City Infernal) have written taboo-breaking horror fiction that's invariably provocative and sometimes good taste-challenged. This collection of their five collaborative stories is the literary equivalent of a frat-house Halloween party, full of cheesy shocks, raunchy sex and gross-out humor. "I'd Give Anything for You" and "Love Letters from the Rain Forest" have carbon copy plots involving nymphomaniacal young women who spurn wimpy suitors for studly hunks and pay for their choice with grisly fates. "Eyes Left" delivers more of the same, offering its account of an alluring female zombie who turns tables on a group of drooling barflies as a morality tale on the wrongness of sexual objectification. The title story, about a man unhinged in waking life by a secret existence lived in his slumbers, relies on a trite narrative shortcut-a tape recorder that catches the truth while he sleeps-to unravel its mystery. Only "Masks," about magically endowed masks that bring out the subconscious impulses of an intimate couple, succeeds in conveying the strangeness of uncanny experience. The book also includes first drafts of two stories, one by each of the authors, that show Lee to be the more prone of the pair to inventive descriptions of bodily functions. This book is unlikely to earn either author new readers, but neither is it likely to deter the hardcore fans at whom it clearly is aimed.
Unlike Jack Ketchum’s earlier novel, LADIES NIGHT, his newest one, RIGHT TO LIFE, definitely has the shoe on the other foot as a pregnant woman becomes the victim of a deranged married couple that kidnap her right off the street and hold her captive for several months while she’s forced to endure their bizarre SM games.
The 139-page novella starts off with Sara Foster on her way to an abortion clinic to do away with the unwanted child that she’s now carrying. Before Sara can even enter the clinic, she’s grabbed and sedated by Stephen and Katherine Teach—a couple who’s unable to have children—and taken to their home where she’s held as a prisoner. The couple intends to hold Sara until the baby is born and then kill her. Stephen, however, has other plans for his beautiful captive as well. He’s going to get the most out Sara’s luscious body by using her to fulfill his own perverted desires. Forcing her to submit in whatever sexual manner he chooses, she’s mentally and physically tortured on almost a daily basis. Even Stephen’s wife decides to get in on the action by making the prisoner her sex slave when the hubby begins to lose interest after a few months have past.
Sara instinctively knows that she has to find a way out before it’s too late, but time is her worse enemy as she grows bigger and more powerless with her pregnancy. She also understands that if she does manage to escape, the couple may very well come after her. This leaves her with just one option—to kill them first!
RIGHT TO LIFE will shock you to the core as it depicts one’s person’s attempt to survive unimaginable torture and humiliation in order to keep from being killed. Mr. Ketchum never pulls his punches with the violence and craziness. His prose is fast moving and creates stark images that are mind numbing. The reader is quickly carried into this dark world of depravity and made to realize that anyone can be a potential victim when least expected. The characters are well drawn, but it’s the Techs that really steal the show. This is one psychotic couple you wouldn’t want to have as next-door neighbors! All in all, RIGHT TO LIFE delivers in full form. Strong in sexual content, it’s not for the faint-hearted or those with a queasy stomach.
One final note, this edition also contains two extra short stories. The first is “Brave Girl” and it deals with a four-year-old child whose mother has fallen in the bathtub and is now unconscious. The second short story is “Returns” which is slightly different from the author’s normal subject matter. It centers on the spirit of a recently deceased man who returns home to his hateful wife, hoping to stop her from killing his loving cat. These two short stories are a nice bonus for the fans of Jack Ketchum.