Warning – This review has been written for a rather odd book, and the content of this review reflects that and, as such, should not be read by anyone.

James Barton is Sheriff in crime-ridden Los Angeles. Incidents of violence are escalating and the Sheriff has little, if any control over the population as his various addictions, the result of a troubled past and an unrequited love with a local prostitute, render him both unwilling and unable to take action.

When a local gang embarks on a killing spree, murdering indiscriminately and without consequence, the town grows increasingly restless as their crimes go unpunished. A new arrival in town, tasked with bringing the gang to justice, acts as a catalyst for depravity and mayhem that reaches levels only Chandler Morrison can deliver.

The Review: Act One (Wherein the scene is set)

I feel more than a little deceitful for writing this (factually accurate but intentionally misleading) synopsis. While everything I’ve set out above may take place in ‘Human Shaped Fiends’, that is not what the book is really about and I’m omitting a large and important part of the story to avoid spoilers. Needless to say, when you read this book, expect the unexpected.

The Splatter Western series has been nothing if not unpredictable to date, with entries boasting cosmic horror, poetry and werewolves at different times. ‘Human Shaped Fiends’ is possibly the most unusual offering to date. It also happens to be one of the series best.

Reviewers Interlude – Part One

Reading over what I’ve written so far, I do wonder whether it was such a good idea to set out my review with acts and meta interludes. It seemed funny last night in bed when I thought of it, but my brain does have a knack for convincing me I’m funnier than I am when I’m mostly asleep. I’m not even sure a book review can be meta, can it?

Flawed logic notwithstanding, feels like I’m kind’ve committed now though and, silver lining, these interludes are making it really easy to hit my word count. 

The Review: Act Two (Wherein we get to the heart of the matter)

The best books leave you wanting more and, at just under 100 pages, ‘Human Shaped Fiends’ was one I read in one sitting and didn’t want to end. That is no slight against the book’s length (I felt the same about Kristopher Triana’s ‘The Thirteenth Koyote’, which is well over 500 pages), more a comment on what a good time this book is. A big part of the appeal to me was the rich vein of absurdity throughout, whether that be the knowingly over-the-top and gleefully grotesque elements casually dropped into the main story or the larger-than-life self-deprecation of the other sections. The Splatter Western series is such an escapist and hyper-real concept that it’s a lot of fun to read one that leans into the humorous elements.

Reviewers Interlude – Part Two

Looking back at the notes I made while reading the book, I check to see how many I’ve managed to incorporate into my review.

  • Pitch-black humour (check)
  • Grotesque horror (double-check)
  • Engaging but flawed characters (not really…)
  • Unpredictable plot (nope)
  • Graphic and memorable imagery (another no)
  • Tongue in cheek, self-referential, meta (*insert embarrassed face emoji here*)

Too late now I suppose. I’ve pretty much hit my word count already and I have other reviews to write up, plus I really wanted to watch that new Fear Street movie on Netflix tonight (I’ve been hearing good things). 

Let’s wrap it up with my trademark closing paragraph, complete with a social media-friendly quotable line.

The Review: Act Three (Wherein we draw things to a close)

Human Shaped Fiends manages the seemingly impossible eleven books into the Splatter Western series. It is genuinely unique and it manages to shock and appall, even given the typically extreme nature of the series. I can well imagine this being a controversial entry that will divide opinion. The best books the horror genre has to offer often do. 

Richard Martin

Richard Martin


Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

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