Devour is first horror book to grace my reading list this October and makes for an excellent pre-Halloween scare. Prior to finishing the novel, I had no idea that it was author Kurt Anderson’s first work. Reading the book I never would have guessed that. Devour is well written and well edited; it is what you would come to expect from a seasoned author. Assuming Kurt Anderson is not just some other, well-known author’s pen name, Mr. Anderson really blew things out of the water in this book, metaphorically and literally. The premise of the book is pretty simple: there’s a sea monster wreaking havoc after climate change pushes it out of its usual hunting grounds.
Despite the novel’s cover featuring a sea monster, the story is not always about the monster. The boat that is under attack for the majority of Devour is a casino boat that is doing its thing out in international waters. For fans of monster movies that are familiar with those kinds of films, Devour is a bit like a mash-up between Deep Rising and Jaws. Illegal things are taking place on the boat and the people behind it are more interested in concluding their “business” and cutting loose than anything else. This drives a large wedge, in the form of fists and bullets, between them and the protagonists who would actually like to kill the monster and escape. While this does reduce the amount of time where we get to see the monster, multiple plot points were crucial for the story. They are in a boat, the monster is in the water; there cannot be very many interactions between the monster and the people due to that.
Now, a little more regarding the monster itself. From the descriptions in the book, it is a little unclear at first exactly what it looks like. Eventually, the conveniently placed scientist who is in most monster movies declares it is a kronosaur. Remember the really big water dinosaur in Jurassic World? It is similar to that. Although the kronosaur described in the book seems to be much bigger than what the fossil record indicates, we can chalk that up to an extra 65+ million years of evolution. As is the case in most monster movies, the kronosaur is an incredibly effective hunter and seems much more intelligent than the average animal. In fact, a few short chapters take place from the kronosaur’s point of view and portray it as capable of planning and harboring feelings of revenge.
Anderson spends a good amount of time developing his characters, both protagonists and antagonists alike. The more important characters get a bit more back story but no one spends so much time on their background that you are sitting there thinking, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…” The book opens up a bit slowly but once the monster first attacks the pace picks up and stays that way for the rest of the novel. Devour features all of the right elements of a sea monster story as well as the right dosage of each one. This book marks a strong start to Kurt Anderson’s career as a novelist and I for one look forward to whatever he publishes next. On a side note, I am very happy not to live anywhere near the ocean and will need several post-Devour weeks before getting near any body of water deeper than a bathtub.