Necro Publications, 120 pages, paperback, $7.95
I’ve always thought that books, while being infinitely better than films, could learn a thing from great action films: pacing. When an author offers excessive back story, unnecessary scenes, or rivals classic Russian literature in terms of never-ending descriptions, the results are bogged-down narratives that, regardless of quality, tend to become tedious. Thankfully, a few authors out there seem to share my thoughts on that and deliver fast-paced, action-packed stories with minimal filler. Raegan Butcher‘s The Siege of Station 19 is a perfect example of that.
It’s the Fourth of July, 1987, and the sun is punishing every living thing in El Paso,Texas. Cop Devalerie Love has been transferred to a new and unfamiliar precinct and is given the unpleasant task of supervising an almost deserted police station that’s about to close its doors forever. The oppressive heat and the menial task make Devalerie wish for the end of the day so he can go home to his wife and two young daughters. Unfortunately, he’s far from going home and has no idea of the bloody mayhem that’s about to come his way.
Out in the heat there’s a bus transporting inmates, including a relatively small man with a gigantic reputation, Edwin “Rattlesnake” Torres, a quiet war hero turned contract killer for the Mexican Mafia. The bus is forced to make a stop at the station due to a medical emergency, but the emergency stops being the priority when a pack of vicious flying monsters attack the vehicle and then the building. The creatures, which are both humanoid and reptilian, are fast, deadly, and very hard to kill. In order to survive, everyone is forced to join forces regardless of which side of the law they are on because the things doing the killing are coming for them, and they’re really fast.
Butcher wastes no time getting to the action, and that’s a very good thing. The narrative kicks off with a brief introduction of the main character’s life and circumstances and quickly jumps into nonstop action and gory chaos. Because there’s enough back story to establish rapport with the characters involved, the horror of the attack hits the reader harder. Between the short but vivid descriptions of the murderous creatures, the sharp dialogue, and the active prose, The Siege of Station 19 offers a monster narrative with a very enjoyable cinematic feel.
The beauty of The Siege of Station 19 is that it focuses on the story and providing readers with a balanced reading experience instead of trying to shock them with gore. Butcher’s writing uses the bloodletting as a crucial element in his plot instead of letting it take over the story, and the novel deserves to be read because of that. Sure, there is a lot of blood hitting the floor, destruction, and bullets flying, but the narrative’s main elements are fear, tension, and the desire to survive.
With a solid mix of stress-driven action and monster horror, Raegan Butcher’s debut makes him a name that should be on the radar of horror fiction fans, as well as of those who enjoy thrillers and simply well-written stories.
Gabino Iglesias is writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.