Weed Species by Jack Ketchum. Review by Jeff Burk

Book Cover

If there is a Jack Ketchum (The Girl Next Door, Open Season, The Lost) book out there that does not destroy one's soul when read, I have not found it. Published in as a limited hardback by Cemetery Dance (only 1,500 signed copies printed) Weed Species continues Ketchum's track record of emotionally shattering stories as it tells the story of Sherry and Owen, a couple brought together by a common love of serial rape and murder (inspired by the real-life crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo).

At a scant eighty-six pages, going any further in detailing the plotline would spoil the many sick plot twists. Despite the short length of the book, Ketchum manages to pack in a lot of story as the two main characters are given a great amount of depth. In reading this story, one is afforded a distressingly intimate portrayal of the mind of a rapist. Be warned, if you can not stomach sexual violence it would be best to stay far away from this book.

Do not let the cover art of a plant creature and the title mislead you, there are no plant monsters. The "weeds" referenced are the human characters who infest the lives of those around them. Just like weeds, Sherry and Owen choke the life (figuratively and literally) out of all those they encounter.

Also worthy of mention are the six interior illustrations done by artist Glenn Chadbourne. The pictures do a wonderful job of visually continuing the theme of human infestation as twisting hand-like plants threaten to overtake almost every picture. The illustrations are expertly detailed in black and white and they also expand on the dreary atmosphere of the book. Combined with Ketchum's prose, the book leaves a lasting impact on the reader. At thirty-five dollars a copy, it is an expensive book, but, if one is an avid fan or Ketchum or small press horror, Weed Species is a beautiful addition to one's bookshelf.

Jeff Burk has been an avid fan of wierd fiction for longer than could be mentally healthy. He also writes reviews at the Bizarro webzine the Dream People.