"Curse of the Reaper" Book Review
Written by Zach Rosenberg
Published by Talos Press
Written by Brian McAuley
2022, 336 pages, Fiction
Released on October 4th, 2022
Brian McAuley gives us something special with Curse of the Reaper. The Reaper franchise is a story as old as Tinsel Town: an aging actor, a role he’s typecast in, and a franchise zombie. Howard Browning is an elderly actor on the convention circuit, his fanbase shrinking every year. His claim to fame was playing The Reaper in a lengthy slasher franchise.
But Hollywood is in the business of breaking hearts. Handsome actor Trevor Mane is announced to star in a reboot of The Reaper franchise, with Howard given no credit. Howard is fiercely protective of his role and refuses to let go so easily, while the identity of the Reaper begins taking on a life of its own.
And it wants to continue the franchise. It wants a vessel.
Combining a love of slasher films with an intimate knowledge of the brutal backroom dealing of Hollywood, McAuley’s greatest skill is characterization. It would be too easy to make Howard or Trevor simplistic characters rather than the complex and well-rounded figures they are. Howard is no monster, but an aging man desperate to hold on to the one thing he truly has to call his own.
No less complex is Trevor, a former child star struggling to remain sober after public struggles with substance abuse. Howard’s method acting begins to consume him and the reader is left to wonder if the Reaper is just Howard plunging too far into the role, or if there is something more sinister and paranormal afoot.
When the action starts, the slasher story becomes all too genuine. People die in gruesome and creative ways, all for the Reaper to ensure it won’t be forgotten or cast aside. Trevor is left to try to save his soul and the lives of his loved ones, though he is unsure if he can resist the lure of the role.
Though it takes a bit to get going, with some clunky dialogue, the commentary of the book is firmly on point. The kills are delightfully brutal and intercut with sequences from the Reaper films. The psychological torment of the characters feels real and the horror is exceptionally done.
McAuley asks the question what happens when the movies bleed into reality. The answer is the people bleed even more.
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