As it just so happens, I’m right in the middle of reading a non-fiction book that explores the historic and cultural origins of vampires, so, when I learned about BEASTS OF THE FIELD: A TALE OF HISTORIC TERROR, it seemed right up my alley. Vampires have always been a fascination of mine; ever since I was a little boy, I’ve always been drawn to quality monster stories. I couldn’t say why exactly, though I think it started out – as it does with all young boys – that I wanted to believe in something scarier than simple man, and monsters naturally fit the bill.
The thing about young boys that you may not know is that we secretly always root for the monster. That’s because the thing with different eyes and nails and teeth is always – always – some bizarre creation of man, and it’s inevitably always hunted by man, making it the natural ‘underdog.’ And who doesn’t root for the underdog? (The answer: only a true villain.)
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Rest assured: there won’t be all that many things revealed in my brief synopsis. That isn’t because I’m being extra cautious; rather, it’s because BEASTS OF THE FIELD is a novella, and, as such, there’s only so much story here. But – for those of you who want to know what’s coming – here’s a curt summary: during the final days near the end of World War II, Avi Weissman – a Jew – finally thought he was a free man, but his release from a concentration camp only serves to bring him face-to-face with some new dangers – a darker, more personal threat that’s likely to change his life in ways he never knew imagined.
War always leaves a mark on those who participate in them, be they aggressors, responders, or victims; and World War II changed the way so many people at the time looked at the greater world at large. Nazis were already monsters, but what no one knew was that there were even deadlier monstrosities involved. Weissman’s freedom carries an even higher price – that of his immortal soul – in a way that’ll scar him and, as he learns, so many others for generations to come.
BEASTS is a quick read, but that doesn’t mean it lacks depth. Some may take issue with author Michael Murphy’s use of history in drawing so stark a metaphor against which to weave a classic tale of monsters finding their way in a brave new world, but, for my tastes, I thought it was bloody effective. He establishes a dark premise, and he delivers precisely what readers of quality horror would want – you may not think of Nazis and vampires the same way in the future.
For those who wish to nitpick technical issues, there are a handful of minor formatting errors in the text; still, I didn’t find them all that distracting, and they certainly didn’t cheapen the experience in any way. But – as I try to be 100% in crafting my review – I felt it necessary to point it.
BEASTS OF THE FIELD: A TALE OF HISTORIC TERROR is written by Michael Murphy. It is a novella available presently on Amazon.com. It bears the cover price of $.99.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. As a novella, BEASTS OF THE FIELD: A TALE OF HISTORIC TERROR serves to remind readers how a frail humanity can be lost in times of war just as easily as it can be in times of peace or in the tumultuous times that follow human conflict. It’s been said that one man’s monster is another man’s savior, but never forget that salvation carries with it a heavy price, indeed.
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