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Cannibals
Rex Bowman
Strider Nolan paperback $5.95

review by Alasdair Stuart

When six teenagers witness the accidental murder of their teacher during a pleasure cruise, the killer, Captain Mcguffey, forces them overboard in a lifeboat. When they find an island, they think that their luck has finally changed. But as time goes by, two things become clear. They're not alone, and the natives are very far from friendly...

Rex Bowman's debut novel is pulp in the purest sense of the word. The characters exist to serve the plot and incidents are piled high on top of one another with increasing abandon. Bowman takes full advantage of the setting to both bring out the petty rivalries that are inevitable between teenagers and explore what happens when they're forced to grow up far too soon. What's particularly impressive is how he sets up the traditional stereotypes (jock, loner, prom queen, tomboy) and then subverts them over the course of the novel. Peck, the hero, is particularly impressive and endearingly fallible, often surviving through sheer luck as much as skill.

However, the real star here is the relentlessly bleak situation the teenagers find themselves in and the way in which Bowman continues to build the tension and the stakes. There are several genuinely surprising plot twists in the second half of the novel and Bowman excels at keeping readers guessing on the traditional game of 'who's next?' that stories like this allow you to play. Crucially he also nails the one factor that almost no novels of this type succeed in portraying; genuine danger, the feeling that absolutely no one is safe.

If you're looking for detailed character development and subtle plot arcs then the chances are you won't pick up a book called Cannibals anyway. However, if you're looking for pure, adrenalin-streaked entertainment and a novel that hits the ground running and never slows up, then this is for you. Fast, horrific and inventive this is pulp at its best. Recommended.
Cannibals by Rex Bowman

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