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Joe R. Lansdale ‘Prisoner 489’ Review

Written by: Ridge Hardy

2014 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? When we weren’t bowled over by Ebola, we drank infidel tea with a twist of lemon and three cubes of ISIS. We watched the coverage of the aftermath of the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases in outrage. 200,000 years of human evolution and people still can’t get over race. People still can’t get along and people still steal TV’s when they should be protesting. It’s a vicious cycle, this bipedal backpedal.

This is one of those times where we need our superheroes to swoop down from their swanky environs and restore justice to streets nationwide. Quit being lazy. The planet is suffering under the immense weight of hate and we need love to wash away the hurt. Are you listening, Batman? Come out of obscurity, J’onn J’onzz. We need help. Seeing that they were buried under a sea of Facebook tags, Joe Lansdale took his mask and purple tights out of storage and unleashed his own paen to love- Prisoner 489. Actually, this book has nothing to do with love. I wrote this whole lead-in to establish myself. This is my first review for Horror Novel Reviews and I know you, dear readers and fellow writers, go crazy over “brands” and “voices.” You need something to relate to. Hey, you got me. But this is about Joe. So I’ll do Joe justice. Because he’ll read this, he’s a martial arts expert, and I don’t want to die.

There are creative people and then there are creators. Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, The Beatles, Bob Dylan to name a few. Artists capable of creating worlds; where feelings meet ideas and take on the power to elevate souls onto lofty planes by transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Joe easily qualifies as a creator. But like he does in everything else, Joe defies categorization.

Joe’s work is like visiting Porn Hub and hitting shuffle. Just when you think you have him cornered, he’ll surprise you with something totally original. But unlike Porn Hub, you won’t regret the surprises. Prisoner 489 is the latest Lansdale surprise. Like all great tales, it concerns three men, one element of unspeakable evil, and an island or two.

Prisoner 489 doesn’t take place on an island filled with pasty white tourists in khaki shorts and (God forbid) Birkenstocks. This is no standard island. In the middle of it is a prison that houses the world’s most evil criminals. An unexplainable force lives there and reduces those working within its walls to despair, insanity, and suicide. Measures are taken. Workers are given the opportunity to leave after a probationary period and criminals are promptly executed. Nothing works. Long after the executed are buried, the force remains and resolves to destroy even more.

Bernard, Toggle, and Wilson are three crew members enlisted to carry out the job of transporting and burying the dead. Each body is laid to rest in a nameless grave with only their inmate number as proof of their earthly existence. All goes well until 489. After 489 is buried, a storm splits the evening in half. One of the crew goes missing and the force threatens to lap up the remaining two. But things, as things often do, don’t always go as planned. 489 then ups and pulls a Jesus himself, leaving an evil that desperately needs to be squashed by all that is good and humble in the human spirit. An evil that results in an epic battle between life and death, with the winning side clearly in death’s favor.

Prisoner 489 is a Lansdale classic (like everything he’s written). Santiago Caruso’s breathtaking art beautifully serves the tale, making this one of the greatest Lansdale titles ever. Why are you even still reading me? Go out and buy Prisoner 489. You’ll love it.

Order it right here.

Rating: 5/5

Cover design

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

3 Comments on Joe R. Lansdale ‘Prisoner 489’ Review

  1. Vitina Molgaard // December 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm // Reply

    Welcome …What an outstanding introduction and review. I am a fan of Joe Lansdale and his body of work…Going to need to read this one and am looking forward to seeing more from you…Just Me…Vitina Molgaard

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dankeschön, Vitina!


  3. Wayne C. Rogers // December 18, 2014 at 12:58 am // Reply

    I already have my signed, limited editon on order with Dark Regions, but probably won’t see the book till February or March. Still, it’s something to look forward to. Anyway, Ridge, you wrote an excellent review. I hope to see more reviews by you in the future. Joe is definitely a fantastic martial artist and has hands as fast as the late Bruce Lee. Fortunately for us, he’s also a very nice person.


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