Thursday, June 8, 2023

Brujo by William Relling Jr.

Always on the hunt for more 80’s horror paperbacks in the Native American sub-genre, I was excited to get Brujo. Just look at that witchy cover. Brujo is Spanish for warlock. Basically, a male witch.

The book starts with a prologue of the history of Catalina Island. Basically, the native people being visited by white settlers, the Spanish. Hence the name Brujo. At first, they were cool, kind of, but spoiler alert, they ended up exterminating them. The “witch doctor” of the tribe, the Brujo, was one of the last to be killed. They buried him alive, leaving him the opportunity to curse the land and use his magic to someday come back and have his revenge.

Next we get chapter after chapter of character introductions. Am I going to have to remember all these people?? Fuuuck. Some people are in San Diego, some already on Catalina Island. Also, I was pleasantly amused that it takes place on Catalina Island being that the only thing I know about it is from Mystery Science Theater’s riff on The Catalina Caper. It made the book kind of funny because the settings mashed in my brain. Almost like I could hear Joel and the Bots riffing on Brujo.

Many chapters of introductions. Some are killed almost immediately. Some aren’t. It got to the point where anytime someone was introduced you didn’t know if it was killer filler or a main character. It made every character seem like a supporting roll, even the main protagonists.

What we have essentially is a disaster story. The Brujo commands the animals of the island mentally from his grave. The animals attack the humans. No one can get to or off the island because whales and seagulls and bees will wreck ships and planes. Wild boars kill hikers. House cats eat babies. Ok, that part was awesome. And so on. The people are split up, surviving and putting it all together on how to stop the Brujo. There’s a stupid kid who is smart beyond his years and has psychological powers. What was with the 80’s and kids in horror? I hate it. Kids aren’t special, they’re dumb. Ha! Just kidding. Kids are wonderful and much more pleasant to be around than adults but keep them out of the horror books, 1980’s!

There is a lot of unnecessary fluff. There is a sentence that literally says, “there wasn’t much to see..” and then a paragraph describing the boring landscape. Dude. The worst was every time a chapter would start and it would be a new character, first you’d have to stop and think about it, do I know who this is? Then they would get mauled by some animal. After so many times of it happening you would dread every time a chapter would start with a new name.

The Brujo exists in the spirit world but sometimes he can control a person. But only a weak-minded druggy. Brujo was killed before electricity yet can telepathically teach animals to chew through gas and electric lines to cause explosions. Shit was dumb. This book was dumb. Except for the part where the cat ate the babies face. That was cool.

Tor 1986

Review by Nick Anderson

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