Kyra and Claire have never met, never spoken, but by the time this crisp autumn evening comes to a close, they’ll have formed an unbreakable bond and an indestructible unity as they face an evil nothing in this world could’ve ever prepared them for. Kidnapped at gunpoint, they are bound, beaten, and savaged by a madman whose sole purpose is to enforce pain and impose suffering. Driving them far from their peaceful suburban community, he becomes more monstrous with each mile that separates them from any and all familiarity. Kyra and Claire are mere innocents, taken against their will and brutalized by a man who, as they soon realize, is not a man at all. He is ruthless. He is relentless. He is MERCILESS.
I have to say, I was pretty excited when I was given the task of reading Brandon Ford’s newest book, Merciless. Although I had never read anything by him before, the summary was enough to conjure up images of Rex Miller-style killers and Edward Lee-esque violence. As this was right up my alley, I delved in happily to see what Mr. Ford had to offer, and I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed.
Merciless is actually a novella with three stand-alone short stories following it, all with the common theme of a somehow violent intruder. As such, I’ll be reviewing each briefly.
Beginning the collection is the title novella which has been described above. As promised, it is quite hard to read at times and can certainly make you cringe, although I felt as though the girls’ night of terror ended before the maniac managed to do the level of harm I’d anticipated from reading more gruesome authors. Even so, it is indeed a harrowing tale that manages to create an emotional bond between the reader and the two young girls. I read it all at once since it’s only around 140 pages on its own and although the ending seemed to rush up too quickly I still enjoyed it overall.
Next up was the story titled “The Neighbor”, which is about murder and mayhem in a trailer park. When the tired wife of a disabled redneck realizes that her neighbor just might be a killer, she makes an interesting decision on how to deal with the situation. This was a decent story, but I felt detached from what was happening so the violent bits didn’t bother me as they had in “Merciless”. The issue is that no attempt is really made at creating a bond between the reader and the characters. However, it was a quick read of only 30-some pages and was okay, just not special in any way.
The second short story, however, was very special. “Last Call” is the only tale in the book that isn’t directly about a killer; rather, it represents the meeting of a middle-aged man and a young woman in a late night bar. A conversation is sparked about suicide and the man comes away from it with a disturbing understanding. Personally, this was my favorite of the three short stories. Whereas the other tales all relied heavily on gory details, this one is merely psychological in its representation of violence. It makes you think at the end about what exactly is implied and the consequences of those implications. It may be the shortest of the bunch, but it’s definitely the best.
Finally, we have the last story, titled “All I Ever Wanted”, which is about a pre-op transvestite working at a P*rn shop and hoping to one day have the money to turn herself into the woman she’s always known she was meant to be. When a young man offers her three hundred dollars to satisfy him for the night, she sees an opportunity to get closer to her goal, not realizing the danger she may be putting herself into. Out of all of them, this one was the most disturbing to read in my opinion. There’s no hope in this one and it ends on a pretty depressing note, but it works well in light of the story itself.
Overall, this was a pretty cool collection and I was impressed with Mr. Ford. There weren’t many grammatical errors (thankfully) and the writing was pretty good. He’s not quite on par with such greats as Rex Miller, but Mr. Ford certainly has something to offer to anyone interesting in reading about the kind of monsters that stalk our streets at night, the kind that can strike anyone at any time.
Book Review: Merciless – Author Brandon Ford