Book Review: Afraid by Jack Kilborn

afraid-kilbornUnless you live in the UK or Australia, today’s book is not yet available from your local library.   I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of this title, which is being released today at book stores online and on site, from a publicist for the book’s US paperback publisher.   (This title was originally published in the UK in 2008.)

Advanced Reading Copies are fun.    I first discovered them a million years ago when I was a book store clerk at Waldenbooks in New Orleans. I vividly recall reading an ARC of Michael Chabon’s debut novel The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh,  which I utterly adored and very actively sold to my regular customers.  (Sadly, I never really liked any of his subsequent novels.  Go figure.)   ARC’s are sometimes available to us at library meetings as well,  though the best I’ve ever fared there was a not very interesting history of Brooklyn, New York.      Although this site is focused on titles available from your local library,   I do routinely accept and receive review copies of books from publishers and publicists.    In many cases these “review” copies are regular published copies,  on occasion even purchased and delivered through Amazon.   But every now and then I do receive an actual Advanced Reading Copy and can, as today feature a book on its US publication day.

Jack Kilborn’s  Afraid is a novel set in Safe Haven, Wisconsin, an isolated kind of country town with one road in and out that has been taken over by a military division of a type called “red-ops”,  which are basically sadistic and criminally insane super-human men who are implanted with computer technology in their brains so that they can flawlessly execute programs to “isolate, terrify and destroy”.    As a teenager and young adult I used to be quite a fan of Steven King’s novels  particularly things like The Stand and It,  what I think of  as his “pre-Misery” period.  (I loved Misery but after reading it lost all interest in King’s subsequent novels.)

In those old Steven King books it was often quite clear within the first hundred pages just what Exactly the lurking evil is and the craft was in King’s ability to meticulously and accurately portray the mundane details of life as the horror lurks just outside of the frame only to terrifyingly make a brief appearance before the routine and mundane so  clearly  and  plainly takes over again.  Two hundred pages into Afraid I was still frustratingly unable to figure out what the evil was and was frankly troubled by Kilborn’s pages and pages about the pain the victim felt and the pleasure it gave the superhuman attacker when the latter squeezed the former’s testicles among many other instances of savagery and the intentional infliction of extreme pain.

It seemed to me as though these truly awful sequences about pain and pleasure are where Kilborn invested most of his craft.    The “secret”  turned out to be that the trained and programmed killers come from our own US government  (duh) This “secret”  is teased out over the entire three hundred and fifty page book The romantic  sub-plot  about the fireman and the waitress seems hackneyed and contrived.   Unless you are into S & M,  Afraid is Not Recommended.   Buy Now $6.99