Savage Species by Jonathan Janz

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Publisher: Flame Tree Press | Release Date: Jan. 10, 2019 | Pages: 304

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jonathan Janz does several things immaculately well in Savage Species, primarily crafting high-octane action sequences and creating antagonists that you can easily hate in the span of only a few short paragraphs.

One such character is Eric, the emotionally abusive husband of Charly (one of the book’s lead females). Eric is a massive d-bag, a power-hungry control freak who shirks his duties as a husband and father, and is quick to point the finger and blame everyone else. Immediately upon confronting this character in the novel’s early goings, I longed for Janz to violently dispatch him – only problem was, there were a few hundred more pages to go! I just kept waiting and waiting for this jackass to bite it.

The protagonists of Savage Species are your usual every-man crowd – a housewife, a trio of reporters, some frat boys out to party in the newly opened nature preserve, and Frank Red Elk, who knows more about the history and local legends than anyone else. He also knows a hell of a lot about soft-core porn, and one must wonder just how much grueling, painstaking research Janz was forced to partake in, no doubt suffering for his art in order to successfully pull off Frank’s varied interests and his many film and actress references.

The action is a thrilling roller-coaster ride through bloody stretches of monster mayhem. The initial assault of Janz’s creatures, known as The Children, is a violent, adrenaline fueled sequence of pure chaos as these beasts lay siege to the preserve and furiously interrupt a college co-ed summer party. What would have been a hell of an exciting climax in virtually any other creature-feature is merely the starting point for Savage Species, and Janz manages to escalate the threats and tension thereafter rather well.

If I must lodge a complaint, and it’s a mild one mind you, at certain points the violence took on a video-game like quality as things grew wildly frenetic. These long stretches of violence go on slightly too long and the thrills wear into sheer exhaustion. Perhaps this an appropriate feeling as a reader, as it certainly mimics what the characters must be feeling as they battle for survival against a horde of unrelenting monsters. However, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of tightening to these scenes would have gone a long way. I also couldn’t help but feel that the extended waves of violence led to a mid-book slump when things slowed way down for an extended period to allow characters to regroup and launch into the story’s latter half. Naturally, events pick up accordingly as Janz rockets towards the big finish.

Overall, Savage Species delivered the goods. It was exciting, fast-paced, humorous at times, and even came with a dash of romance and love triangles to give a bit of weight to the savagery.

Originally published by the now-defunct Samhain Publishing back in 2013, Flame Tree Press has recently acquired the rights to this and the rest of Janz’s backlog of titles, reissuing it with a fresh, and awesome looking, cover.

(Pro-tip: Be sure to check out Children of the Dark, a prequel of sorts to Savage Species, available from Sinister Grin Press. You can thank me later.)