Hellrider by JG Faherty
Publisher: Flame Tree Press | Release Date: August 22, 2019 | Pages: 288
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
We don’t have enough horror novels that include heavy metal and motorcycles. In fact, I don’t know if we have that many horror novels that deal with motorcycles or heavy metal. It’s a fun pairing if you think about it. I mean, look at something like Ghost Rider or The Spirit (it’s a movie, I know, but it works), both are deep in the horror vein, but they just need some speed metal to crank up the intensity. Which is exactly what JG Faherty did with Hellrider, a book about a vengeful ghost biker bent on taking the town of Hell Creek to task. It’s a fun, gory tale that might be a bit on the long side, but never lets up on the action.
When asked what influenced him the most when writing this, Faherty answered with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’s Grindhouse as well as crazy motorcycle movies from the 50’s and 60’s. I mention this because this book definitely wears its influences on its sleeve. This is pure grindhouse cinema in book form. Lot’s of gory over-the-top action, plenty of boobs and talk of sex, plus the whole demon set on revenge thing. If that’s not your style then you are out of luck. But, for the rest of us, this is a blast of a book, something I could totally see as a B-movie that you’d watch late at night with a group of friends.
Despite the grindhouse feel, this book is way better than it should be. I mean if I were to tell you this book is about a biker that is killed by his old gang, comes back as a demon/ghost full of anger and revenge, possesses people so that he can kill while singing heavy metal you’d probably chalk this up to some schlocky novel.
But, Faherty’s skill with crafting a well structured book elevates this to something more. Each scene builds on the next to keep you moving forward. Information is interspersed with bouts of action so that you are not stuck wallowing in an info dump. The violence ramps up throughout until reaching a stunning climax. His characters have their own motivations that are not all tied to running from or stopping the demon, and even the side characters have mini arcs that make them feel real. It all adds up to making a story that is satisfying to read.
Character is definitely where this book shines. Our demon, Eddie Ryder, is a perfect storm of violence and pity. At the start, we learn that he has to take care of his sick mother and brother, while dealing with taunts from his old biker gang. After he dies, his anger boils over and he blames the gang for all the bad things that happened to him. Of course, the more he relies on the anger the more he loses himself until he blames everyone, including his brother for everything. Faherty makes us hate him one moment, especially some of the terrible things he does, then feel sorry for him the next, like when his mother is sent to the hospital. Then we have our heroes, Eddie’s brother Carson and the sheriff’s daughter Kellie. Carson is a geeky high school student and Kellie is one of the most popular girls in school, quite the pair, right? The two partner up to take on Eddie after realizing what’s happening in town. They also start falling for each other, much to Eddie’s chagrin. This mix makes for some tense moments considering that Eddie can see all and possess people. It’s really amazing how much we care for these characters, multiple times I found myself getting tense and worried that Eddie would ruin this relationship.
Hellrider does have some faults, the biggest being that it feels a bit too long. The cycle of Eddie taking over a biker, causing mischief, then jumping out of their body became a bit boring after a while. It’s entertaining and frightening the first couple of times, but soon it feels like it’s there just to be shocking. This also goes with Carson and Kellie, they keep talking about the trouble being Eddie, but don’t do anything about it, falling into the trap of no one believing them. Then when they all figure out what they want, Eddie deciding to enact his final plan and Carson and Kellie setting up their own plan, the action happens so quickly that it feels rushed. This off-balance doesn’t ruin the story, I did have a lot of fun reading it, but does stand out when compared to how well the characters and action were written.
Hellrider is the perfect book to read while waiting out the last days of summer or if you want to get in the mood for the Halloween season. The right blend of action, violence, and heavy metal to keep you engaged. Faherty’s writing is top notch and makes this book so much more than just a story about a murderous biker demon. If you are looking for something that captures the spirit of grindhouse movies then look no further than this.