It's a rare thing, but sometimes you come across a book that feels like it was custom made for you, hitting all the right sweet spots, all the right fist-pumping beats, as it swallows you whole into its world. Savages by Greg F. Gifune was such a book for me. Naturally, your mileage may vary, but for me, this was a sweet, sweet read.
Opening with an epigraph quoting the 1920 film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you get a good idea of what's in store for you. "A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it..." It's a powerful quote, and Gifune's book has the darkness to match as the author tackles the themes suggested here.
Savages is a short novel, and a lot of its power is derived from the unknown. So I won't say much about it. You can read the book's synopsis, but the shorter gist of it is this: a small group of survivors wash up on the beach of a mysterious island. They think they're alone, until gruesome evidence begins to say otherwise. Yes, there's evil afoot, lurking in the jungles that surround them - but I will say no more.
The surprises these survivors uncover is simply too good to spoil, but know that Gifune's epigraph works on multiple levels here. There's plenty of savagery to be found, as well as heaping doses of primal needs for survival. This is, I think, survival horror at its finest.
As for those sweet spots it hit for me? You've got the deserted island trope, which I'm a bit of a sucker for, an awesome threat that relates directly to mankind's own savageness, and a strong, fierce heroine. Plus, the group itself - there's some good character work here, and despite most of them being friends, their personalities and traits allow for plenty of strain and tension, as well as worry over in-group violence that could boil over at any moment. This is simply a compulsively readable title, and once Gifune starts weaving in the background of the threat this group is facing, it's a full-tilt boogie of mad-dash horror straight on through to a dark, beleaguering finale.
Savages is a horror book that's perfectly crafted, from it's beautiful, vintage cover, straight on through to the story's last page, and a new instant-favorite for me. Read it!
[Note: This review is based on an advanced copy provided by Sinister Grin Press via Hook of a Book Media and Publicity.]