Bryan Smith is one of my favourite authors. He is the reason why I became a splatterpunk horror writer. In fact, Smith influenced me to such an extent that I paid homage to his characters in one of my books. He is the Whitney Houston to my Mariah Carey.
Smith’s Depraved series ranks as one of the top five best splatterpunk horrors of all time. Thus you can only imagine how delirious I was with excitement when I found out that Smith wrote a third book in the series. I snapped it up on Amazon, downloaded it to the Kindle app on my iPhone and flicked to the first page with a trembling finger. This was it. Depraved 3 had arrived!
Yet, much to my dismay, Smith decided against the “backwoods rumble-tumble” that made the previous instalments so successful. He went in a completely ludicrous direction, which not only caused the trilogy to fall flat, but also diminished his usually strong writing style. Protagonist (antagonist?) Jessica Sloan gets sent to Prison 13, a secret facility in the middle of bumrub nowhere (it could be Siberia?). There she is introduced to torture, depravity, horror and godless gore.
“What the duck is Prison 13?” You ask. I’ll let Smith explain:
“Though Prison 13 had no direct affiliation with any surviving vestige of Hitler’s failed regime, the shadow council apparently wished for inmates to believe otherwise. Thus the swastika was the prison’s official symbol of power. It was everywhere. That there was no direct lineage between the third Reich and Prison 13 – probably -didn’t matter. The symbols were universally known. They evoked feelings of revulsion and dread and conveyed an important message about the facility’s dedication to merciless sadism.”
A neo-Nazi prison on the outskirts of Hell? Returning characters? Sadism? Madness? Horror? Yes, to all the above. Smith’s splatterpunk skills were sharpened to slice any disapproving throat, including mine. Because unfortunately, and I hate saying this, I absolutely despised Depraved 3.
Firstly, the novel felt out of place and distant. I couldn’t connect with the characters, nor could I appreciate the unorthodox characterisation. Secondly, the whole Nazi shtick is more clichèd than chocolate ice cream. And lastly, Depraved 3 suffered from a severe case of Milked Cow Syndrome, i.e. been there, done that, got the t-shirt!
I thoroughly enjoyed the splatterpunk set pieces (one girl’s hands were dissolved in a vat of acid) and I definitely fell in love with Smith’s prose all over again. Nevertheless, the obsessive homosexual sub-plots completely ruined the book’s pacing and momentum. Instead of using the LGBT theme as a subtle subtext, Smith decided to explore the trigger-happy sex scenes with a gauche incongruity.
The climax was rushed, the denouement untied too quickly, and Smith’s melodic narrative ended in a bizarre postlude. There is a slim chance that Smith might write a fourth book in the series titled DEPRAVED 4: AT THE CORE OF THE EARTH. If and when he does, I’ll be sure to pick up a copy the second it hits Amazon’s shelves. I know Smith can redeem himself. He is, after all, a better writer than Stephen King.
Yes. I said it.
Dear Bryan, please do not go gently into that good night. Write a fourth book. Show us what we know you’re made of.
RATING: 3 / 5
Reviewed by Renier Palland
Renier started his writing career as a film critic in the early 2000’s. A few years later, he was employed as a Senior Entertainment Writer at one of the biggest entertainment websites on the planet. He worked alongside celebrities, Hollywood agents and entertainment bigwigs for more than seven years. He received an international publishing deal in 2017. His debut splatterpunk trilogy, War Game, is slated for a 200 000-print USA and European release in March of 2018. The official launch will be held at Barnes & Noble in New York City.
OFFICIAL DEPRAVED 3 SYNOPSIS:
Welcome to Prison 13, a secret prison for women located in a remote frozen wasteland. Years after killing her corrupt father, assassin Jessica Sloan is abducted and sent to this horrifying repository for “troublesome” women. In Prison 13, life is cheap and no one can be trusted. The medical staff are gleeful torturers and the people who run the place are Nazis. No one ever gets out alive. No one has ever escaped. But Prison 13 has never had an inmate like Jessica Sloan. One way or another, she means to get out of this hellhole. Even if it kills her.