The Raven by Jonathan Janz
Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They’ve discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA. These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?
Hi and welcome to my review of The Raven! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for the proof copy!
It’s no secret I’m a huge Jonathan Janz fan. At a point where I’d all but forgotten about horror, he was the one who reminded me why I loved the genre, the one who encouraged me to pick up horror again. I’ve been a firm fan of his and Flame Tree Press ever since, and although I haven’t read his entire backlist yet, it’s safe to say I have found a new favourite in The Raven.
The night he met the cannibals, Dez made the mistake of leaving his hiding place too early.
This is the opening line of The Raven (note that it was taken from the ARC) and just like that I was hooked. Cannibals?! Madness! I needed to know more!
Dez “the Raven” McClane is a Latent a.k.a. a regular person without any kind of supernatural power in a world riddled with people who aren’t quite human anymore. You see, the myths and folklore of yore were based in truth, but mythological creatures had either gone into hiding or the non-human genes were dormant in their offspring. Until a group of scientists decided to launch a virus, an airborne virus that could also be spread by touch, and the infected didn’t have any symptoms at all, thus infecting literally everyone they came into contact with. Lots of people died, and the ones who survived were not entirely human, bar a few exceptions like Dez.
So we have cannibals here – maneaters who gain superhuman strength from eating people – bloodthirsty vampires, raging werewolves, witches, satyrs, all kind of mentalists, you name it, it’s roaming the earth. Yet The Raven is not about them, it’s about a regular guy who used to be an English teacher (hence his nickname) and who’s had to learn to fend for himself. Everyone he once knew is dead, and the woman he loved was taken from him and he’s just trying to stay alive and save his lover in this dog-eat-dog world where it’s kill or be killed.
I love a good dystopian tale and The Raven gives the genre quite a spin. Many dystopian horror novels focus on zombies or zombie-like creatures, but there’s not a zombie in sight. Getting caught by one of the creatures in this world might get you violated, or drained of your blood, or just plain eaten, in any case you’ll be dead and you’ll stay dead. Unlike zombies, these creatures are intelligent, they flock together, they work together to get their prey, even enlist Latents to help them.
So taken at face value this is a riveting thriller / horror story. But just underneath the surface, there is the question: what lengths would you go to in order to survive? Would you learn how to fight, get a gun, a machete, a crossbow for self-defence? Or would you seek safety with the predators?
Once of the things I admire most about Jonathan Janz novels, and The Raven is no exception, is that this is an author who knows how to set a scene, how to paint a picture with a few well-chosen words, allowing me to watch an entire scene play out before my mind’s eye with little effort, even when it concerns places I’ve never been and beings I’ve never seen (and god let’s hope I never do!).
If dystopian horror is your jam, you need to get The Raven on your TBR stat!