After being burned alive by a gang, the Hell Riders, he used to belong to, Eddie Ryder returns as a heavy-metal spouting ghost with a temper that’s worse now than when he was alive. At first he is nothing more than a floating presence, depressed he has to spend eternity watching his teenage brother, Carson, and ailing mother struggle without him.
Then he develops powers. And he can control electricity. He can conjure the ghostly doppelganger of his motorcycle, Diablo, and fly across the sky, but he can’t escape the boundaries of his hometown, Hell Creek.
Eddie decides to exact his revenge on the bikers who killed him. Before he can do more than scare some of the bikers, however, he discovers something even better: he can posses people. He uses this ability to get the gang members to attack each other, and to deliver a message to the current leader, Hank Bowman: Eddie’s Coming. Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death.
Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.
Title: Hellrider | Author: JG Faherty | Publisher: Flame Tree Press | Pub. Date: 8 August 2019 | Pages: 304 | ISBN: 9781787582644 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Rape, sexual assault | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: NetGalley
‘Hellrider’ is a weird and largely unsuccessful mix of supernatural revenge thriller and crude comedy that’s as ludicrous as it is offensive. Imagine a cross between ‘High Plains Drifter’ with bikers rather than cowboys, and a direct to video R-rated ‘Police Academy’ rip off and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.
It doesn’t help that the premise is kind of familiar. Motorbike loving mechanic Eddie Ryder gets killed by members of the vicious gang he used to ride with. He comes back to haunt them and the town he grew up in, taking bloody revenge and riding a ghostly version of his beloved bike through the night. If it sounds a bit like Marvel’s ‘Ghostrider’ comic that’s because it is a bit like Marvel’s ‘Ghostrider’ comic. To be fair, JG Faherty calls this out early on, so it’s not like he’s trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. But still…
My biggest issue with the book wasn’t a lack of originality though, it was that it’s really kind of nasty. That’s an odd thing to criticise a horror novel for, but the violence in ‘Hellrider’ was neither horrific nor cathartic. It was just kind of icky.
Ryder can’t directly assault his killers (he’s a ghost after all), so instead he possesses them and gets them to attack each other. Often (far more often than I was comfortable with), the violence is of a sexual nature. Ryder possesses women and gets them to seduce gang members against their will, he possesses men and gets them to rape or attack women. Penises get hacked off, people get brutally beaten, women are made to strip and lay in the street. Worst of all, with Eddie as the protagonist, the reader is complicit in these attacks. Some of them even feel like they’re being played for laughs. It’s all deeply unpalatable and left me wishing the book was over sooner than it was.
The one saving grace is Eddie’s brother Carson, who becomes more and more of an important character as the story unfolds. He’s likeable and reasonably convincing. His coming to terms with Eddie’s death and investigation into the supernatural events that follow it is by far the best part of the book. I think if the balance between Eddie and Carson was different, I might have liked the book a lot more than I did.
Unfortunately, it’s really Eddie’s story. It’s angry, juvenile and unpleasant and ends up feeling like a Troma movie without the wit or intelligence.
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