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Jake's Wake by John Skipp & Cody GoodFellow
Review by Drew Bittner
Leisure Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780843960761
Date: 30 December 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When Jake Connaway, cable TV preacher and serial adulterer, was killed by a jealous husband, people thought that was that.

Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Jake's Wake, by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow, follows the events of Jake's last hours, and what happened after. As mourners gather at the Connaway home, where his wife Esther tries to resolve her complex feelings over Jake's murder, a strange confluence of forces is about to occur.

The mourners include Jasper, Christian and Evangeline, who have their own reasons for wanting to see Jake in a pine box; Edgar, the handyman, who stays out of devotion and something more; Emmy and Mathias, the holy rollers who were sucked into believing Jake's ministry; and others who will be a little late to the party.

On the TV, breaking news tells of a massacre at the funeral home where Jake was being prepared for burial... and not long after, Jake himself walks into his former home, stitched up and reeking of formaldehyde. He's risen from the dead and plans to enjoy it for all its worth. Backed up by the homicidally psychopathic Grey, Jake terrorizes and brutalizes the handful of people in attendance, inflicting hideous injuries both physical and psychological upon them.

Is Jake's return proof that God is dead and the Devil is in charge? What do the apparitions flickering around inside the house mean, and what do they want? As Jake's reign of terror approaches its horrifying culmination, a reckoning lies ahead--one that none in that house could ever have imagined.

Skipp (one of the founding fathers of the explicit "splatterpunk" horror of the 1980s) and Goodfellow do not stint on the blood and gore in Jake's Wake. The violence is graphic, a hard R in movie terms, with some unsettling imagery not just in the here and now, but also in Jake's memory. (Hearing some of this from Jake himself, another character realizes that it doesn't excuse Jake's madness, but does explain some of it.)

Jake is a larger-than-life figure. Possessing almost inhuman charisma, he is able to bend people to his will with frightening ease. He charms, uses and discards women--some to slake his lust and others to fill his wallet--and he's never had to pay the price. Skipp and Goodfellow do a terrific job of creating this monster, infusing him with ego (hey, who wouldn't feel pretty darn special after rising from the grave?) and a psychotic willingness to do whatever he pleases.

The three women who figure most prominently in the story are a study in contrasts. Esther, his long-suffering wife, knows fairly well what kind of man Jake is, but never left him; she's lost the ability to impose her own will on the world, having been subjugated by Jake for so long. Even the support of Edgar isn't enough to snap her out of it when Jake returns.

Emmy, one of Jake's true believers, struggles to reconcile Jake's words from the pulpit with his monstrous depravity. Witnessing two horrific murders, she is lost when her spiritual compass goes astray.

And Evangeline, the former hooker, agonizes over her lingering love for Jake and her recognition of what he truly is. Much like Esther, the contradiction tears her apart.

Although there are moments of false hope, ultimately the outcome rests in the hands of Jake's victims. Unless they can find the ability to resist the undead maniac Jake has become, the long night of Jake's return may be the last for them... and the world.

Skipp and Goodfellow deliver a blood-soaked powerhouse, one that rockets from the first page through the last with many a gut-punch in between. It's hardcore horror, with no apologies, and it'll leave an indelible impression long after the last page is turned.

Recommended.

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