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on 4 January 2016
I'm at a bit of a loss to explain the glowing feedback for Sick B*astards, especially as most of the reviews are written with far more flair than the book itself. The blurb proclaims this to be extreme, and while the subject matter covered is hardcore stuff, the execution cripples it. In the wrong hands, horror becomes kind of clownish, and it's telling that I often pictured parody hack Garth Merenghi narrating the story. Now before you think I’m being overly harsh, bear in mind that you’re being asked to invest real life money and your own valuable time into something that smacks of being knocked out over a couple of evenings by a hormonal, overly-ambitious teenager trying to shock his English lit. teacher. Also bear in mind that this is a published release, on a major, international platform, which has clearly never been anywhere near a second draft, let alone any sort of critical editing.

This becomes obvious immediately - the writing is amateurish. The exposition is clunky, filled (stuffed) with needless (pointless) parentheses (plus lots of brackets and such) and the grammar is often bewildering, hopping around between the past and present tense within the same sentence for no discernible reason. There’s virtually no attempt at scene-setting description whatsoever, apart from the odd bit of primer-level stuff like “pretty girl” and “big house”. In this day and age, there's simply no excuse for unleashing a vocabulary so limited upon the paying public. Virtually every page is chock-a-block with such literary howlers as "Was this the look that Father looked at me with...?" Compounding this, the dialogue is unnatural, often sounding like the stuff ’blurted out’ in a Boy's Own adventure novel from decades ago. One memorably bad scene involves the protagonist considering suicide in the family toilet, only for the melodrama to be interrupted by his father, who barges in, yelling “I hope you haven’t stunk it out!” I actually burst out laughing at this point, and that’s why I’ve given the book two stars, because at least I got a good chuckle, however unintended, out of it.

So, okay, the actual writing style is a bust. This wouldn't be such an issue if the narrative went anywhere, but sadly, it doesn't. The book is way too long – there’s enough material here for a decent short story, but if you’ve read the sample section, you’ve read 90% of the book. The characters eat some people, they have sex with each other. They do it all again. And again. There’s no real build-up, plot-wise, to this situation by the way – they start running low on food and suddenly devolve into murderous, incestuous cannibals the moment they meet another person. The protagonist spends half the book trying to escape from the family house, only to almost immediately turn around and spend the second half trying to get back there, all for fairly nebulous reasons, before stumbling onto the not-exactly-well-hidden plot twist by complete accident. The narrative flow and pacing are all over the place: the few interesting parts of the story (The mystery of the disaster that caused the set-up, and the feral creatures hunting the family) are barely touched upon until the very end, leading to flashback chapter after filler chapter of boring sex and violence. In a final insult, once you've trudged your way through to the denouement, it makes very little sense and is comically far-fetched.

This book is an unfortunate example of the potential pitfalls inherent in self-publishing, and of why print authors and publishing houses employ editors to actually check submissions. Any decent editor would have sent this straight back to their client awash in red pen, with a letter telling them that the whole thing needed a major re-write before they could even consider releasing it.

I wasn't really that keen on it, in case that wasn't clear.
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on 19 July 2014
First off I’ll mention the marketing if you like of Sick Bastards, if I was thinking of a way to get people interested in a horror novel then this would probably be the perfect way.

1. A title that instantly grabs you.
2. A solid black cover that hints at little except for a message.
3. A Warning just to top it off. One like -

WARNING: THIS IS AN EXTREME HORROR NOVEL. There is gore. There is bad language. There are scenes of a sexual nature. But hidden underneath it all is also a chilling story. Please do not purchase this book if you are easily shocked, disgusted or offended. This book is not for you.

Ok now my attention has been grabbed, did the story live up to it, I have to say it had a damn good go at it, in fact, yes it pretty much did.

This is my second read by Matt Shaw and both stories were told from a first person point of view, in this case its brother/son and the opening describes him having sex with his sister before an unwanted intrusion from Mother. An incestuous family that never leave their house.

Father, Mother, Brother & Sister have no memories of before the bomb went off, they woke and all they had was a picture and when they eventually went outside, when food got scarce, what they saw kept them from ever leaving again. What they saw were zombies, fast, strong and hungry.

Don’t worry this is not another tired zombie story, they only feature fleetingly and are more of a reason or excuse for us to explore this families deterioration from normal human beings into guilt free, sexually active and boy are they active, cannibals, all except one.

The story is told in different timelines, the present where Brother is overcome with guilt at what his family do and his desire to leave the madness. We also see the past, how they slipped into the life they now lead, the sex, the welcoming fellow survivors, only to see them as ‘meat’, food for survival.

The horror is not overwhelming considering some of the stuff out there, they are cannibals and it’s really gripping to see how they become this way, how they initially become sexually active but I have to say I’ve read stuff by Edward Lee and Wrath James White that are far more disturbing. This is more about people and what they are capable of when all other options run out.

I really enjoyed this, its clever both in the story, the unexpected twist at the end and its marketing.
I will certainly continue to read more from Matt Smith.
A 4.5 Rating.
Recommended
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on 7 February 2014
The cover caught my eye,plain and straight talking. "So it has a warning" I thought,I needed to know if it was justified.
Trust me it is! As the warning states is what is in the book. I like to review books without giving the plot or story away,why do that?,you wouldn't have to read it then! My thoughts are this is a well written book with a strong main character,and evenly balanced supporting characters. They story is easy to get a grasp off and does not leave the reader feeling confused despite flirting between the now and then. The authors descriptions throughout are easily imagined which in some cases can be a little uncomfortable,but if like me this you will find adds to the thrill of the read. I found the story was just the right length without becoming tedious.
The added authors notes were a bonus,the authors personality shows which comes across as being quite a character! One I am definitely going to recommend to other horror friends and I am also going to look into other books by him too!
Overall a great read,a well written book,deserving the five stars I have awarded in my review.
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This is the story of a family who wake up in their car with no memory of how they got there or why they are there. They know a nuclear bomb has exploded, but that's it. They stumble upon an empty house and decide to stay there for the time being in the hopes that their memories will return. All is well until the food runs out, suddenly they find theirselves resorting to actions they would never have thought possible. How far must they go to survive?

This was gritty and raw and totally uncompromising. I found it very hard to put down. I was drawn into the families suffering, and I stayed there until the bitter end. There was a lot of gore, and some shocking scenes of incest, but that's what Matt was trying to achieve, to shock. The twist at the end was an interesting one, and posed some difficult questions. I understand Matt has a sequel planned, and if it is anything like this then I am sold already!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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on 29 May 2014
Bought this kindle novel to read at 5pm put it down, reluctantly, after a couple of hours, and then finished it off the next morning!
Although the book contains a warning I didn't think it was gory enough to merit the notice - however couldn't stop reading and the end came as a surprise (there were enough clues when I thought back so it wasn't one of these irritating twists just to finish the story. I would've liked it to be a little longer and explored the characters more - but I won't quibble about that....
I definitely recommend the book and I will read more of his.
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on 1 March 2015
Don't be fooled by the Authors lame attempt do draw people in with silly warnings and adding the words extreme to the cover. I think the Author shoots his load within the first few pages with incest sex and a bit of cannibalism after that it just slows down to a crawl with very little to offer. The main character is just so whiny with zero personality and goes on and on about wanting to die but is too scared to leave the house in-case he gets killed. the rest of the characters are so utterly dull and would be almost forgettable if it was not for the fast that his mother and sister don't seem to be able to get their hand off the son . I would recommend watching Island of death (1976) over reading this, At-least that's a little more fun and has a bit more imagination than this.
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on 15 July 2014
I love extreme horror and this was a great concept, but executed SO badly that I don't know where to start.

The characterisation was appalling. A slow descent into depravity would have been a much more engaging and interesting read but instead, the family suddenly become murdering cannibals overnight. You can accept someone turning to cannibalism if you really get a feel for how hungry and desperate they are, and feel sorry for them in the process. You can accept someone murdering a stranger if you know they've been brainwashed to fear strangers. But none of that is set up properly and most of the characters are two (or one) dimensional and I felt no sympathy or interest in them. Since the author is not capable of proper characterisation, he should have made this a short story and it would have done much better.

Unfortunately, what IS set up really well is the "twist". You could see it coming a mile off.

It was very jarring how early chapters was repeated, word for word, near the end of the book after the "twist", as if the reader is too stupid to remember what they read an hour ago. At first I thought there had been a problem with the download.

Add all of that to the many spelling and grammar mistakes and it was a frustrating read, the first Kindle book I have returned for a refund.
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on 28 July 2015
This book is absolute rubbish, anyone can write something to shock and disgust but very few can do it well, this author is one who can't. Avoid this drivel and spend your money on something more rewarding. It's annoying that there is no option for giving no stars as this would be a true reflection of my opinion of this book.
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on 21 January 2014
A family trying to survive after a nuclear disaster, explicit incestuous sex, murder, cannibalism, what would you do to stay alive?
Written in wonderfully gory detail, all that aside it is a beautifully written and very scary story and very much a story of two halves, the real shocker coming with the twist, roughly halfway through and what a twist in the tale it is!
The main player in this story is Brother, told from his perspective you can't help but feel sympathy for this character in spite of the things he is forced to do to survive, Brother decides enough is enough and leaves his 'loving' family to find help, what he does find is...well you will have to read it and find out!
Mr Shaw has pulled this off brilliantly, It's not just gratuitous sex and splatter, it's a very, very good story.
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on 30 May 2014
I read many, many horror books. I always have and I always will. However, reading so many (good, bad, ugly, deplorable) books tends to make you become complacent and tired. Every now and then, you need a book, that one book which can bring you back from the deep and restore your faith in the written word. Don't get me wrong, I'm content with my literary horror choices but when I picked up SB, I was having a particularly bad day.

I only have one word for this book. Wow!
I have four more. Thank you, Matt Shaw.

A warning - in case you didn't read the cover. READ THE COVER. Done? Good. Don't say I didn't warn you. Easily offended? Look away now. SB is one of those books that has the power to divide people. Horror is a great genre for this anyway but SB, with its brash, bold and brutal content, is heads and shoulders above the best out there. Incest - in lurid, sexual detail? Check. Cannibalism and extreme gore? Check. Characters you want to despise but love purely because they are a product of their circumstance? Check. A mysterious apocalypse that threatens to doom the world? Check.

What makes SB unique is the moral core. Yes, we see a brother and sister engaging in unfathomable sexual acts, a mother who's obsession with her son's penis is a little...uncomfortable and not to mention several explicit scenes of cannibalism. However, this book is rooted in morality. What would humans do if the world ended and we were left to fend for ourselves? No power, no food, no utilities. There isn't an answer to this question that can be predicted, calculated or even rehearsed. Now, imagine you didn't know who you were, what social rules existed and the only thing you know is this: If you don't survive, that's it. End of story, nothing, nada.

It's all ripe for a great, if horribly disturbing novel. But that's the point. If the world ended tomorrow, we wouldn't and couldn't continue as normal. There's a good chance that events in SB could really happen. Sure, it's not pleasant, but society is brimming with hatred and violence anyway. All it takes is to unlatch the rules, remove them, end the normality of life and everything would go downhill very quickly. Whether this was Matt Shaw's intention or not, he's created a stark, uniquely brutal and very entertaining novel with a social message that hits very close to home. I don't offend easily but there were moments when I wondered just how far the author would go. I love this in a novel and horror is always better for it.

5* - A fantastic, censor-baiting read. I peeked at the reviews before I read this and people were offended. So what? Judge the book by its cover. The author warns you of the content within. If offended, why even approach this book in the first place? It's this behaviour within the social strata that makes SB ring true. Some might not like it, but they'll still try to wrap their curious eyes around it anyway. Some might not like the results but this only shows man's need to push the barrier and destroy themselves in the process. Pretty apt if you ask me. SB is a great entry in the horror genre and I can't wait for more. Bring on RDF!
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