The Breeze Horror
by Candace Caponegro
I remember seeing this book quite a few times since it first came out in the mid-80's. Though I've read hundreds of horror novels-there's definitely a much larger percentage that I have read than ones I
haven't-I never did pick it up. The cover art was, well, stupid and leads you to believe the book is about a haunted curtain or windowshade or window. I'd also never heard of the author before.
A friend who is also really into horror told me to pick it up, because it was good and 'one of this sickest things he'd ever read'.
Not only is the cover art lame, it's deceptive- neither the cover art, the description on the back, or the excerpt on the front page mention the fact that this is basically a zombie novel, with a some new twists. Like a lot of the best zombie movies and fiction, what caused the disease is vague- toxic waste, outer space, something like that. The book begins when a toxic chemical rain comes down, infectinge veryone it touches. The setting of the novel is an island (Sea Breeze Island, hence the title) where the main characters are trapped. Things are already bad, because the electricity doesn't work, anything with a motor doesn't work, they're cut off from any communication with the rest of the world (if the rest of the world even still exists), there's a limited amount of food and water, there's no way for anyone to get off the island, and those that try are melted into goo. other than the small problems those circumstances present, everything's great. No, wait, I guess not. The unlucky people that are infected grow sick and rot, are in horrible pain, but they don't crave flesh. Their minds still work, so unfortunately they're just as smart, and strong as before, and just to add to the fun, as they get sicker they start going completely insane. It doesn't take too long for the zombies or 'beachers' to get tired of being in quarantine with no food or medical supplies, and get pissed off enough to begin to organize to take over.
The book is divided into 4 parts, and beginning with part 4, becomes an out-and-out, free-for-all horrorfest. I could definitely see some easily disturbed or upset readers putting down the book well before the climax, however. I'm pretty jaded, and there were times when I just shook my head in amazement and disgust, wondering how much more unpleasant things could get.
This is one of those books that, before you're even halfway through, you learn not to get attached to any of the characters, no matter how likeable they are, because at any time of them could suddenly meet a
hideous, graphic fate with no warning whatsoever. You also learn not to be to optimistic about them escaping their situation, or to think, "well, things can't get any worse", because they can. The 'beachers' not only are smart and seemingly indestructible, but they keep developing horrible new features just as the humans start to think they might come out on top. If you like your humor pitch-black, you might find some amusement in parts of the book, but it still starts out depressing and just gets grimmer and uglier.
Try as you might, you can't help but care about the characters, especially the central character, Sandy, and her toddler. While others around her start to justifiably go crazy from the horrible events, or just not care anymore, she manages to keep it together. At first she seemed like kind of a Pollyanna to me, but less than 100 pages into the novel something so completely unexpected and horrifying happens to her which she not only survives but grows stronger as a result of.
The catch-phrase "death is only the beginning' has kind of gotten over-used in horror media, but in describing this book, doesn't seem strong enough.
Since the author makes clear early on all bets are off, and she's not going to go easy on the reader, it's pretty hard to predict what will happen next and how far she and her son will make it, so the suspense makes you want to keep reading...if you can stand to. I'd be reading and thinking, OK, this must be as nasty as this book can get, and then GOOD LORD! Some hideous image or event would unfold that made me surprised this book made it past a mainstream publisher. And by the way, don't even *think* about trying to eat while you're reading this. If you're hungry when you pick it up, food will be the last thing you want to think of by the time you put it down.
This seems to be the only book written by Caponegro, which makes me suspect she's the pen name of another horror author (James Herbert or John Shirley were the first ones to come to mind). Either that, or
writing the book made her so depressed that she decided to go into another profession. I searched all over the net for more info, but could only find the information that this was her first novel. In fact, there's very little information out there on this novel out there period, which kind of gives me the creeps. Maybe most people just automatically blocked it out of their minds after they read it because they were so traumatized.
If you like horror fiction (or horror/sci fi) and don't get upset or nauseated easily, I'd recommend this underrated, little seen book. The prose is great, the plot is extremely original (in fact, I'm now wondering if a couple more recently written novels ripped it off) and
genuinely frightening. Don't let the lame cover put you off- this is one genuinely frightening novel that delivers. There's only a few minor flaws that I found, such as some of the dialogue seeming unrealistic, and a couple times having trouble suspending my disbelief, but the impact of this book wasn't lessened any. I'm probably only going to recommend it to my friends that are into horror, though, and have read some pretty unpleasant, disturbing stuff already- otherwise they'll probably never want to read anything I recommend ever again. And even then I'm going to warn them, because this is one of the few things I've read that actually gave me nightmares. I do NOT recommend this to anyone who wants to read something pleasant or looking to cheer them up. You also might want to avoid it if you've recently had a death in the family, or if you're pregnant.
This one will catch you off guard.
I thought I was ready for this book. I wasn't.