A group of friends living in rural West Virginia are all struggling to make ends meet. Many have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and are doing what they can to support their families during difficult times. As many of their children begin to reach adulthood, and their thoughts turn to saving for college, they devise a plan to make money by using their isolated locale to their advantage and head off into the forest to scout for a location to cook meth, away from the prying eyes of local law enforcement.
What they find in that forest, however, is more than they bargained for. The eerie silence and absence of animals strikes them as odd at first, until the reason for this lets itself be known once the sun starts to set and the blood begins to flow. Featuring two additional vampire-centric short stories (‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Down Under’) one thing is for sure in Brian Keene’s latest horror novella. His vampires Do. Not. Sparkle!
A thrilling mix between ‘The Descent’ and ‘30 Days of Night’, ‘With Teeth’ is yet another winner from prolific horror master Brian Keene. Short though it may be (100 pages) it packs a hell of a punch and is immensely engaging, making this the perfect book for a horror fan to sit and devour in a single sitting.
The story may not be a ground-breaking one but ‘With Teeth’ is a prime example of why not every book needs a unique hook or a new twist on an old formula. Sometimes a classic story told with style is just what you need, no more, no less.
There are a great many things about ‘With Teeth’ that elevate it beyond another in a long line of well-trod man versus vampire stories. First and foremost is Keene’s incredible knack for characters and dialogue. The early build-up where we meet the large cast is a joy to read. You feel like you’re sat there with them as they drink a beer, shoot the breeze and generally just enjoy each other’s company. You know that not all of them are going to make it to the final chapter (hell, it’s a Brian Keene book. It’s not a given that any of them will) but it takes literally a few pages for you to care what happens to them.
Strong character work is all well and good but what about the vampires? Anne Rice fans may be in for a shock as these are not your standard aristocratic bloodsuckers, waiting patiently in their sprawling mansions for a comely lady to stumble willingly into their arms. The vampires of ‘With Teeth’ are feral, wild animals, vaguely humanoid but otherwise a whole different ball-game to what you might expect. They aren’t cunning or shown to be all that intelligent. They are vicious, relentless, ruthless killers and once the book introduces them, all hell breaks loose.
The second half of the book is big on action, bigger on gore and violence, and things get pretty tense as the group tries to flee as they see friends killed horribly and without warning. There are some pretty extreme scenes, but the tone is firmly set to fun and you almost feel as if you’ve held your breath for fifty pages once you get to the end.
Fans of Keene (and I can only presume that is most of you) will no doubt love the book, and it does veer slightly from the stories you could typically expect from him. The closest comparison I could think of would be ‘Castaways’, sans the overt Richard Laymon influences, replaced instead with the easy camaraderie of the boys from ‘Ghoul’. If that sounds like a book you want to read (and it sure did to me) then you’re in for a wild ride with his latest. If this is your first time reading him then it is a great starting point. It’s fast-paced, fun and delivers on everything that Keene has been so good at consistently putting out for the past twenty years.
‘With Teeth’ is a brutal, relentless, tense rollercoaster ride with blood and mayhem galore, anchored by Keene’s trademark strong and memorable characters. This is another must-read from one of horrors most remarkable voices.
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.