Offspring - Jack Ketchum

We all have books that we know we shouldn't love as much as we do. Some of these novels we should actually hate, downright loathe because of their subject matter and immoral ideals, but we don't. We aren't turned on by the debauchery, but we aren't turned away either. In fact, we wish we could delve deeper, go further, see even clearer the nasty of which the author is capable.


Jack Ketchum's OFFSPRING is a guilty pleasure of mine, even more so than its predecessor, OFF SEASON. This book has far more character development than the first book in Ketchum's series about Maine cannibals, and relies less on in-your-face gore and shock value while telling a pretty overdone tale. Don't get me wrong, the violence and disturbia is everywhere throughout, like buckets of blood tossed willy-nilly over the walls of a slaughterhouse, but, this time around, Ketchum tackles his own special brand of the macabre in a sideways fashion. In OFF SEASON, he described everything in splendidly awful detail, down to the last drop of blood. With OFF SPRING, he's more poetic in his delivery of the vicious visuals, taking the metaphor/simile route instead of the stark realistic approach. I think this comes down to Ketchum having grown as a writer since his debut novel, and I respect that. 




The first time I read this one, I was caught off guard by its "happy ending". This is one of the only books of his that ends on a positive note. Throughout the entire story, I was on the edge of my seat, deathly certain that Amy's infant daughter, Melissa, was about to be eaten/dismembered/violated, so much so that I was sure that's what had happened. Meaning, after first reading OFFSPRING, I'd convinced myself that the baby had been killed, in turn making the fact that she survives a twist that I didn't see coming when I read it the second time. Weird, huh? This is not to say that I wanted the baby to die, but that Ketchum's writing is so bleak that I've come to expect it, and when it doesn't happen I'm shocked. 


I feel horrible now... Please don't think I wanted the baby to die. Pretty please? With sugar and dead puppies on top? :)




Anyway, moving on. OFF SEASON, OFFSPRING, and THE WOMAN are not feel good books. Do not go into them expecting anything less than the most vile content imaginable. If you don't think you'd like to read such, stay far away from just about anything Jack Ketchum writes. His books are a bit uplifting though, as most of them will leave you feeling as if you have the greatest life known to man in comparison to the poor fucks that inhabit these pages.


Stephen King said it best: "Who's the scariest man in America? Probably Jack Ketchum."