Off Season

by Jack Ketchum

Every so often life reminded you of how grimy and carnal a creature man could be if he set himself to it.

Carla has retreated from New York City to the woods to work on her book, and she has invited her sister and a few friends to join her for the weekend. The three couples are hunkering down for the night when the house is invaded by a feral group of cannibals, mostly children, who aim to torture, kill, and eat them all.

The novel’s grisly, and since its initial release many authors have piled on the viscerally gory train that left the station with Off Season. And, as it turns out, the original published version had been heavily edited for content by squeamish publishers—edits which are restored in this anniversary version.

On to the merits of this style of storytelling. We like horror in a lot of cases because it provides a venue for us to experience fear, but safely. Torture porn has to be forcibly shoehorned into a justification like that, though. Personally, the merits of the sub-genre largely escape me. But there is merit in Off Season, and it’s found in the overhead view of the story. Life isn’t ordered. The good do not win. Any of us can die horribly at any moment with no reason, and often do.

So the next time you’re praising the gods for the beauty of the world, you may also wish to thank them for helping you make that arbitrary left turn instead of that random right, because the path not chosen could easy have left you a grease spot. Or worse, like in Off Season.

Roll them bones, reader, and live another day. Probably.

“I tell you, Sam, civilization stinks.”
“I wouldn’t know,” said Shearing. “Never seen it.”

4- stars

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