“The writer and director of ‘The Purge’ franchise turns his hand to fiction.”
Feral sees the writer and director of The Purge films turn his hand to writing fiction, with co-author Brian Evenson, who also writes under the pen-name BK Evenson. DeMonaco has many other Hollywood writing credits including the screenplay remake of Assault on Precinct 13 and “The Negotiator” way back in 1998. At the time of writing Purge 4 is in the pipeline with DeMonaco stepping back from directing duties, and there is even a mooted TV series. Evenson has a more established career in horror and has been nominated for many big genre writing awards. His distinguished career includes several novels, novellas, many short stories, has worked with Rob Zombie and contributed fiction to well established franchises including Aliens and Halo. So does this intriguing mix of authors create a great book?
Not really. The main problem is that this work is post-apocalyptic and this is an area which has been well covered in recent years, with many outstanding novels flying the flag. When reading “Feral,” you’ll probably recall many of these books, all of which are better than this. Although it is a perfectly decent read, it has nothing to make it break out from the pack. I read a lot of this sort of stuff, recently Robert McCammon’s “The Border” and very recently “Defender” by GX Todd, both of which are several levels above this novel. However, if you want a fast-paced and relatively undemanding page-turner Feral is perfectly readable, if nothing new.
The novel does have a very good opening. The main character, 16 year old Allie is at school, dealing with normal high-school concerns with boys, friends and her anger management issues. She is also great at sport. However, from the prologue, we learn that due to some unknown chemical catastrophe, much of the population is dead when we pick up the story three years later. It all begins with some sort of chemical explosion reaction which only effects the genetics of males. The beginning of the end starts on a normal school day, boys (and men) get sick, begin to hyperventilate, and if they don’t die they turn into super strong psychopaths who target and kill females. So within a couple of hours, the local school becomes a killing ground, Allie escapes and returns home, kills her father (who has already killed her mother) and manages to save her little sister, Kim.
This was a very good strong sequence and the sudden jump to three years later killed some of the momentum and atmosphere for me. However, we quickly find out that all surviving males, now called “ferals” have continued to hunt and kill women and those that have survived hide in conclaves, fortified bunkers, etc., where much of the remainder of the novel is set. In the three years that have passed Allie has turned from a sports-nut into a feral killing machine. Initially, she reminded me of the ‘Michonne’ character from The Walking Dead and even covered herself in feral blood to disguise her scent when she is hunting. I would have been interested in knowing more of what went on in the three years, but there are no further major flashbacks.
For the sake of her sister Kim, Allie joins up with a group of around fifty women, including a scientist who is seeking a cure, or a reversal to the feral condition. As Allie is such a nasty killing machine she hunts ferals and brings them back to the compound alive (to be experimented on) no mean feat…. Along the way she discovers a particular nasty feral she calls “Scarface” and another surprise which contains a major plot twist in the second half of the novel. She also suspects the ferals are beginning to show heightened intelligence and hunt in bigger and more dangerous packs. They are also migrating in bigger numbers to her hunting ground. All suspicious stuff….
The structure was also a bit quirky, when the chapters have character names such as “Allie” or “Kim” they are written in the first person tense “I”, however, when chapters have no numbers they are written in the third person and I’m not sure whether this was sloppy writing or something else. It didn’t necessarily detract from the book, but was certainly unconventional and a bit messy. However, on occasions it was interesting to see Allie through the eyes of other characters. Other named characters include a few of the other women and the doctor, these contributions are a bit random and feel a bit like extra padding. It did have a pretty fast paced ending, hurtling into a twisted version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend territory, but conclusion that was pretty predictable.
Although it’s aimed at the adult market I thought it had potential as an older YA novel. Allie was a spunky teen heroine and there is a decent romance in the second half of the book. It has been a popular trend in both post-apocalyptic and dystopian teen fiction to categorise people into groups, and is there anything more basic than ‘men versus women’? Which is, of course, the major themes of this book. It’s violent, but not over the top, has a lot of swearing, but is a perfectly decent teen read.
Allie Hilts was just in high school the day the world ended. It started with a fire at the pharmaceutical research facility in town, and soon every male was infected. They were all changed and quickly consumed, becoming unrecognizably aggressive and violent. Animal. They displayed disturbing physiological alterations; they grew stronger and they grew faster. Men were no longer human, no longer to be trusted. The infection spread quickly, and no male was immune. Allie and her sister Kim witnessed every man, including their own father, turn and do unspeakable things. They were the lucky ones. Most women didn t survive the initial onslaught. Three years later, Allie and Kim have joined a group of survivors in an isolated, walled-in encampment, trying to find a way forward in the new world. Outside the walls hunt the ferals those terrifying monsters the women used to know as fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers. Now, Allie has been noticing troubling new patterns in the ferals movements, and a disturbing number of new faces in the wild. Something catastrophic is brewing on the horizon, and time is running out. The ferals are coming, and there is no stopping them. With Feral, writer/director James DeMonaco and acclaimed novelist Brian Evenson have created a provocative and highly commercial novel of pulse-pounding horror, cinematic action, and rich characters.