Holy crap. Brother is a book that lets you think you know what’s going down. I did. I thought I was one step ahead of everything, seeing twists coming like a home run slugger sees his favorite pitch – I know where this ball’s headed, I might as well point to the wall and swing. Then the ball drops – my eyes widen – the ball does a weird corkscrew thing like an X-Wing on approach – I start to sweat – it speeds up, it slows down, it winks at me – what the what – it crosses the plate and I stand there like a big dope, unsure of what I’ve just witnessed, somehow both impressed and disturbed.
I JUST USED WEIRD BASEBALL ANALOGIES TO DESCRIBE A BOOK ABOUT SERIAL KILLERS AND CHILD ABDUCTION.
Let’s break it down. Ania Ahlborn’s Brother is about a backwoods family in Appalachia that murders women they think no one will bother to remember. They do it to satisfy primal urges, each of them the victims of some kind of abuse. It’s like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre clan but with more of a look behind the curtain so that you may understand their madness. When young Rebel decides to abduct a child from the side of the road instead of a dog, little Michael becomes the new family pet. But try as Rebel might, Michael is never quite like the others. It’s a dark coming-of-age story with the fear that Michael may grow up to be a monster and the hopeless dream of escaping it all.
It’s messed up stuff.
Backwoods, redneck horror scares me more than most horror subgenres. It is stories like Brother that keep me from exploring the roads that lead behind the trees in certain regions. I think it’s because these horrors exist whereas zombies are a rare sight in the world of today (I’m not counting out future apocalypses, though).
The way the characters see fit to justify their depravity was an unexpected horror. Michael is the closest the reader gets to having a guide through the horrors but by the time we know him he is a party to the bloodshed. It’s claustrophobic being surrounded by killers for an entire story. There is a blink of white light as Michael falls for a normal girl in town but even that has an ugly nature to it, as he imagines her dead at the hands of the family.
Brother never feels like a ‘plotted’ book. It feels character-driven and nasty on a level that’s all too real. But by the end Ania Ahlborn reveals that everything’s connected, everything’s been carefully thought out. It’s a magic trick that makes you want to go back, discover the sleight of hand, and see how the story plays out differently now that you’re wise to its devious intentions.
Brother is now available on Kindle and paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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