The Horror Honeys: Haunted Book Club - The Fury

Haunted Book Club - The Fury

A Hardcover Honey Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith 

The Fury is a BIG book – I mean, doorstop big, 600 pages plus big, maybe-not-going-to-get-this-read-in-a-week big.  But it starts fast and for the most part, it stays fast.  Author Alexander Gordon Smith has previously released several books in a series called “Escape from Furnace” (starting with “Lockdown”, a futuristic look at a juvenile prison that is like the lost 90's movie “Fortress” scaled back to a YA level – and yes, it was as fun as that sounds) so he knows teens and he knows terror, and both skills are on ample display here in The Fury.

The initial premise of The Fury has a very zombie vibe.  We are introduced right off the bat to 15 year old Benny (don't get too attached to Benny).  Strange things have been happening to Benny lately – his friends have been ignoring or excluding him recently, and his family seems to be staring at him with suspicion in their eyes....maybe even hatred.  Aside from all that, his head has been bothering him the last few days, a rhythmic thumping in his brain that won't go away no matter how many aspirin he takes.  When Benny finds his birthday present, the unexpectedly generous gaming console he was hoping for, he is thrilled and as his mom approaches, he shouts his thanks and waits for a birthday hug.  What he gets instead is horrifying, as his family suddenly attacks him, beating him savagely and then returning to their normal lives with seemingly no idea what they've done.  As Benny dies on his living room floor, he can hear his mom in the kitchen, calmly boiling water for her afternoon tea......

…...and we're OFF – as we meet our real protagonists, who are having Benny-levels of discomfort at their separate schools and at home – captain of the football team Cal, who all of a sudden is taking more brutal hits on the field than ever before, pre-teen Daisy, whose role in Romeo and Juliet is inexplicably given to another student after “Romeo” spits in her face during rehearsal (despite the fact that everybody but Daisy is insistent it was just an errant sneeze) and bad boy Brick, who has what the school calls “behavioral difficulties”, who rides a motorbike and spends a lot of time at an abandoned amusement park called Fursville.  

The opening chapters are spectacular as we get a look at their experiences – slights and giggles, narrow-eyed glances and football fouls quickly escalate, as each of these three begin to undergo more and more dramatic episodes over the course of a day or two.  Did I mention yet that each of these kids has a thumping headache too?  Interspersed with these opening chapters are short set pieces at Scotland Yard, as a mysterious corpse comes to light – although clearly dead, air continues to travel into the corpse's wide gaping mouth, though how this can be, nobody can clearly explain.  And Scotland Yard has moved on from calling pathologists to calling priests in their search for answers.

Back with Cal, Daisy and Brick again and things have gone from bad to worse.  Daisy's parents aren't acting like themselves – in fact, her mom is hugging her so hard that Daisy has to struggle to break free.  And as for Cal, he finds himself running from an entire football team – his own.    When at a distance from people, everything seems normal, but as each of these kids gets within, say, 20 yards of someone, that person loses all control and comes at them with hatred and yes, fury, in their eyes, trying with all their might to kill the kids and, once out of range, returning to their regularly scheduled activities with seemingly no memory of what they had just been doing.  Chilling.

Eventually, Brick, Daisy and Cal find each other (thank you Internet forums!) and hole up at Fursville.  It turns out that in addition to their headaches and death mobs, they have another thing in common, as they seem to be able to hear each other's thoughts and see each other's histories.  They are soon joined at Fursville by twins Rilke and her brother Schiller, who make their way to Fursville after escaping a rave-turned-deadly (in related news, Rave Turned Deadly is my new band name). Schiller is covered in ice when they arrive and seems comatose despite Rilke's efforts to wake him.  

All of this happens before page 200 – and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Once the kids are all in place, the book began to spread out, new characters arriving, the mysterious corpse becoming explicitly malevolent.  It was all very reminiscent of big sprawling  good vs evil works like Stephen King's The Stand or Robert McCammon's Swan Song, both of which I loved as a kid.

There is some internal conflict among the kids and some terrifically cinematic set pieces, including an attempted raid on a factory to gather food.  As the book started, I initially thought “I can't WAIT to see the movie of this”, but as it went on and on,  I wondered if there was a CGI budget big enough to accommodate it.  The kids, you see, each have a presence inside, and as the mysterious corpse becomes more animated and in fact seems to be creating his own enormous black hole, they will be called upon to band together in order to fight this potentially world-ending evil.  But will they learn to use their powers in time?

For the most part, this book really worked for me.  I loved the premise and Smith's willingness to kill off characters that in a typical YA book would have triumphantly recovered.  It did feel a little disjointed at times, and I have to admit that I was much more interested in the Fury part of things than I was in the London-getting-sucked-into-a-black-hole-by “The Man in the Storm” part of things (no offense, London, I am a sucker for a British accent!).  That being said, if you have a few days to hunker down and spend the time it deserves, The Fury is definitely worth a read.  

Hardcover Honey Verdict: Four out of five angry neighbors for this one.

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