I first discovered Hunter Shea last year with “The Montauk Monster” and immediately knew that I would have to read more of his books. The second novel that I read by Shea, “Island of the Forbidden,” was also good so I was looking forward to “Tortures of the Damned” when I got a review copy of the novel. The fact that it is an apocalyptic tale was a bonus and I was hoping for an exciting and scary read.
I has been said that the world will end not with a bang but with a whimper. As Daniel Padilla is about to learn, that saying is wrong. Dead wrong. A series of explosions knocks out the electricity and is followed in short order by a strange sort of gas or fog. Not knowing what else to do, the Padilla family retreats to a bomb shelter. They now find themselves trapped in the shelter along with their neighbors with no knowledge of what happened to the world outside. Cabin fever quickly sets in and the group begins to wonder whether it would be worse to stay in the shelter or to venture outside.
This small band of survivors is forced from their shelter earlier than planned and must venture out into a world that has become a strange and dangerous place. Roving bands of violent animals threaten them at every turn and the threat of disease and death in the air surrounds them. Yet as they travel toward what they hope is redemption, they are soon to learn that there is something more deadly than animals loose in the world. Humans have made the wasteland that the world has become and these two families are not the only survivors of the apocalypse. Even in the face of animal attacks and deadly gas, they are going to quickly learn that humans are still the most dangerous predators of all.
Hunter Shea has impressed me with his talent and natural storytelling from the first chapter I read by him and “Tortures of the Damned” is another fine example of his ability to put together a fast-paced and entertaining novel. The story rockets the reader along with very few extra words and keeps moving along at breakneck speed throughout. It was easy to fall into the story and get swept along so that the novel seemed a lot shorter than its actual, somewhat long length. Even when there were some natural lulls in the story, Shea kept things moving quickly but no so much that I felt left behind. There is an efficiency of writing in this novel that gives just enough detail to flesh out the story while not dwelling on unimportant or unnecessary things. I enjoyed the pacing of the novel as it seemed to fit the somewhat confused and frantic plight of the characters.
While “Tortures of the Damned” is entertaining and checks all of the required boxes for an apocalyptic novel, the story was lacking in originality. The novel starts out strong and grabbed my interest quickly as the families raced into the shelter and then dealt with the cramped life within while they waited for the world to settle once more. Once they emerged into the post-apocalyptic world, however, the story lost some steam as it became somewhat repetitive with the animal attacks and the interactions between the humans brought little if any originality to the genre. I wish that Shea could have kept up the intrigue of the beginning of the novel rather than falling back on the tried and true themes of the apocalypse but the novel is unfortunately not a fresh take on the apocalypse but just a filter of past works through Shea’s mind. I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to fans of the genre but finished the novel with some disappointment. While a good novel worth reading, I cannot help but think that “Tortures of the Damned” just was not as good as it could have been.
I would like to thank Pinnacle and NetGalley for this review copy. “Tortures of the Damned” is available now.