“Oh my God… There’s so many of them…” A grieving man and his son go camping, unaware that a group of amateur cavers have discovered a hidden cavern, and released a horror they couldn’t have imagined. What started as a weekend of healing turns to a fight for survival in the deep woods of the Texas hill country as an ancient terror hunts and seeks to sate a hunger that can only be fed with blood. Only three words, carved into a cave wall, give any clue as to the danger they face: "Bedrohung das Ungeheuer.”
With tight prose and a sure hand at horrific action—“the child was relentless, and every second brought her blood-frothed mouth closer to Christina's flesh”—Johnson offers a bold blend of disaster, natural, and survival horror as he unleashes this terrifying tale of people thrown from their everyday struggles into the biggest one: the fight for their lives. Johnson writes with empathy for his cast, but he’s not afraid of the darkest darkness. The scene in which Richard and Christina, a recently divorced bookstore owner, make the horrifying discovery of how the monsters procreate is legitimately gut-wrenching, a vision that will haunt parents. But even as he relishes splashing viscera on readers, Johnson is a thoughtful craftsman, one who takes pains to make the gore serve the narrative rather than just offer shock factor.
The action is bloody and cinematic, with little room for rest and recuperation between the jolting, inventive violence. The momentum is headlong, and readers with the stomach for it will relish the survivors’ fighting, planning, sacrifices, and surprising choices. For all the anxiety it stirs, Ungeheuer is often tense, gutsy fun that horror fans will feast on.
Takeaway: This visceral old-school horror thriller pits a Texas town against beasts of the night.
Great for fans of: Brian Keene’s The Conqueror Worms, Robert McCammon’s Stinger.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A