I’m excited. Very excited. For a long time now I’ve been avoiding vampire films and novels because I hate the direction vampires have been taken in contemporary times. Like Derek wrote in his review of STAKE LAND (click here), leaving aside the extremely effeminate vampires of the TWILIGHT series, I also hate the romanticized, tortured soul vampire variety. The recent film PRIEST (click here) was going in the right direction having violent, bloody-thirsty vampires, but due to horrible execution it ultimately fell flat on its face. But then this past week I watched STAKE LAND and read the novella BURDEN KANSAS and suddenly my faith in vicious, scary, and blood-thirsty vampires is being restored.
BURDEN KANSAS, written by Alan Ryker, takes place in the titular location. It’s a small cattle-raising and farming community that seems like a throwback to a simpler time. As the novella opens, the local ranchers are experiencing some kind of creature feeding on their cattle. Sometimes the cattle are being slaughtered and other times they’re left alive and just being fed upon. Slowly but surely the creatures feeding on the cattle become unsatisfied with the bovine blood and start moving up the food chain. And guess who’s next in line — humans.
Let me tell ya that I absolutely love this novella and it’s a top contender for my favorite novella of the year so far. Ryker’s writing is extremely polished and it sure as hell fooled me that he only has four books under his belt, all of them written in 2011 (check them out here). BURDEN KANSAS is full of great characters and the story arc will have you thinking you know where everything is going, but Ryker proves he has a few tricks up his sleeves. The main character Keith is a fantastic character that is an old-school ass-kicking cowboy who is having trouble letting go of the past. His character is so well developed that you feel Keith is part of your own family by the last page.
The vampires here are exactly what vampires should be: violent, blood-hungry beasts who live solely by instinct and exhibit no higher intellectual faculties other than the basic instinct of survival. Ryker’s vampires are fast as hell and would no sooner kill you than look at you. But one character who gets bitten and survives stumbles upon a way to hold onto his higher intellectual faculties through his transformation. It’s a fantastic scene that works within the universe Ryker creates (it reminded me a lot of the “intelligent zombie” in David Wellington’s zombie trilogy).
I’m not gonna go any more in-depth into BURDEN KANSAS. This 140-page novella will have you turning the pages faster than the victims turn into vampires (I read it in two sittings). Go grab a copy today (available in both book and kindle editions) and support the kinds of vampires that true horror fans love to see!! This is a fantastic novel and I loved every second of it!!
Author: Alan Ryker
Plot: 4.5 out of 5
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer