Published 2007 384 pages
Deep in the Appalachian Mountains a crack adventure team is testing two experimental rafts on the white water rapids in the Unegama Wilderness Area. The group plans a three day trip of hiking, camping and rafting down the class V rapids.
Washed up FBI agent, Jim Castle and his young partner are also hiking in the wilderness area. They are following up on a reported sighting of Ace Goodall, a religious zealot wanted for bombing abortion clinics in the South. The focus of the FBI’s manhunt is in Texas, so nobody expected for Jim and his rooky to actually find Ace in the Unegama. With no way to call for back up they decide to apprehend the bomber themselves, stumbling over a trip wire as they enter Ace’s camp they set off a booby trap and the resulting explosion opens up an underground cave.
Strange flying bat-like creatures escape from the cave and waste no time attacking the FBI agents. Ace believes the creatures to be angels, sent to help him with his mission. In the confusion he manages to escape the FBI, and stealing a canoe he heads down the river towards the rapids.
Rafting the rising water, the adventure team first become aware of the misshapen human/bat creatures when one of their own members is attacked and killed. They fight off the creature but even after shooting it in the head it just won’t stay dead. When Ace hijacks one of the canoes the adventure team is forced to split up. As the team leader is forced to raft Ace down the river, the rest of the team decide to try and make the desperate climb to the top of the cliffs to get a signal for their phone….
The horrors of both the natural and supernatural world collide in spectacular fashion in Scott Nicholson’s novel They Hunger. They Hunger is reminiscent of the film The Cave (a group of cave divers get trapped in an underwater cave system with creatures that pick them off one by and transform the bitten into their own kind) with a nod to Deliverance (although nobody was made to squeal like a piggy in They Hunger.)
I really liked how the vampire creatures were realised by the author. They weren’t sexy or attractive; they didn’t seduce their victims with promises of eternal life or do any of the other things that are so popular in vampire novels today. These vampires were just plain nasty. They looked nasty, with wrinkled grey skin and misshapen bat-like wings. They acted nasty, with their insatiable hunger for blood and unerring ability to detect their prey, and in best horror novel tradition they were relentless in their pursuit of their prey and extremely hard to kill. Being attacked and drained by these vampires was a painful way to die and worse, once they killed you, you came back looking and acting just as nasty as them.
Normally this would be distressing but I couldn’t really find it in me to be bothered by the gruesome fate that awaited the FBI agents, the random hikers, the bomber or even the group of adventure rafters. Most of the people in this book were either fairly unpleasant characters or died before you had a chance to bond with them.
The human characters in They Hunger were all quite complex. Characters that seemed obvious hero (or heroine) material soon proved themselves to be seriously flawed. For example Raintree, a successful Olympic wrestler and gym-owner, is also part Cherokee. Initially he appears to be on his own vision quest, a man trying to get in touch with his heritage, but it soon becomes apparent that his visions are more likely to be fuelled by his modern day medicine pouch stocked with everything from Valium to LSD.
All in all it made it hard for me to know who I was supposed to be routing for, and in the end I just hoped that the vampires would kill everyone because it would be the most entertaining scenario and I didn’t like any of the characters anyway.
They Hunger should be a popular choice for anyone who likes their vampires to be relentlessly evil and for anyone who enjoys watching a group of humans fall apart, rather than bond, in the face of adversity.
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Scott Nicholson is the author of several horror novels, to find out more about They Hunger and the author’s other works, visit Scott’s website.