Sunday, October 4, 2015

Top 20 Horror Novels - #20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980)

Not only am I ranking my Top 20 Horror Movies for you this October, but I'm doing likewise with the scary books that I hold near and dear.  As with the movies that I'm discussing in that Top 20, I'm not attempting to rank these novels based on their place in pop culture, but rather their place in my heart.  Isn't that sweet?  Seriously, there are some fine books that didn't make the cut here because there just wasn't room, and there are definitely some well-regarded books that didn't make the cut because I don't really like them.  That also means there are some personal favorites of mine on this list that you may not have heard of.  If that's the case, I promise that I'll reward your trust with a gnarly tale if you give one of them a spin.  Finally, I may have shortchanged some of the titans in the genre (hey there, Stephen King) as I didn't want to overload this list with titles by the same author, though Uncle Stevie did manage to score three direct hits on my list.

Top 20 Horror Novels - #20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980)

This is one of a few books on this list that straddle the line between thriller and chiller.  In the end, while some may see it as an example of the former, I obviously place it among the latter.  The ending is particularly bloodcurdling, and even if it boasts the plot of a thriller, this novel finds its way into the horror genre by virtue of all the gore and unsettling violence contained on those yellowed pages.  The story concerns an unusually large Japanese soldier armed with a lethal blade and a twisted mind who is still on the hunt in a remote valley in the Phillipines decades after WWII has ended.  Enter Vietnam veteran Michael Braden, whose brother is the latest victim of this virtual killing machine.  Braden returns to the family plantation in the Cagayan Valley that he has been avoiding for most of his life and promptly initiates a manhunt for the renegade soldier.  He is joined on this treacherous undertaking by a handful of men, most of whom are harboring dark secrets.  One of them seeks to make things right--he is the renegade soldier's commanding officer, a man who feared this violent brute so much that he ordered him to remain in the jungle to continue fighting when their orders to return home were issued.  Yet another supposed ally is also troubled by things he did in the war, but he would rather ensure that these sins remain a mystery than attempt to atone for them.  All the while, their prey relentlessly stalks anyone in his path, ruthlessly dismantling any living being that he encounters.  There are a number of themes that Fox explores in this book, but he never sacrifices any momentum along the way.  Amok remains a slick and engrossing ride populated by well-drawn characters that is punctuated by shocking moments of sheer brutality.  I absolutely love this book, and I think it's a great way to kick off this list.

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