Survivor review

Survivor - J.F. Gonzalez

There is only one word you need to keep in mind going into the late J. F. Gonzalez's graphic horror novel, Survivor. And that word is "harsh".

A harsh look at the dirty, sordid, horrendous world of underground snuff films, Survivor depicts several scenes of harsh torture and murder, perpetrated by characters so harsh in their barbaric brutality, it's actually difficult to believe such folk could exist. One of the main protagonists, Lisa, has to make some extremely harsh choices in order to survive, and its whether she can live with these choices that comprises the harsh moral centre of this novel.

Get the (harsh) picture? Because make no mistake. You will be horrified. Or grossed out and nauseated. It all depends on your appreciation for horror at the harder core end of the spectrum.

I read the "Author's Preferred Edition" that contains a note from Gonzalez that a number of scenes were restored by him - and this goes some way toward explaining the scenes that seem to do little more than reiterate what is already established. In other words, there are occasions through the book's middle act where the acing grinds almost to a complete halt while Gonzalez tries to get all his pieces into place for the finale.

But the novel is undeniably tense (and harsh), and this is its greatest strength. Gonzalez was clearly unconcerned about who he might offend on the way to horrifying others. You'll know what you're in for by the end of the prologue, so if that scene makes you queasy, bug out while the bugging is still good.

If only, it had had have been better paced, less wordy, and had less clear copy and editing errors (such as in the epilogue where a character references it being "almost a year" and then "six months" since the same something last happened within two pages of each other!), Survivor might have been a thumping home run. To me, as it stands, it is a solid double and no more.

3.5 Grandmothers You Wouldn't Want to Visit for Survivor.