The Roo - by Alan Baxter
Updated: Jan 7
Alan Baxter remains one of my favorite Indie Horror writers. His voice never ceases to put me in “the mood”, where the rest of the world is frankly not as important as what is presently going on in my hands – something intense, provocative, inclusive, and well thought out – generally. So, how is The Roo going to compare, given its singular conception?
Baxter explains in the foreword to the novel, that the book’s origins were founded from a book cover mock-up, hilariously created as a joke, to which a group of authors (the horror community) decided a story had to be written around, and the obvious choice for the job, Alan Baxter, residing in Australia. That translates, however, to me, as an In-joke. The book is littered with the names of Authors (no other similarities to the mentioned authors are intended, although if further in-jokes are included, they are based on personal interactions between the parties, and I can’t know that) in the horror community. And that works two ways. Looking over Goodreads reviews, the people that are mentioned in the book and who have reviewed it, well, obviously, they loved it. It’s a blast seeing how an indestructible kangaroo can kill you. It’s an automatic swathe of great reviews.
And that’s all well and good, but how does that translate to the rest of us not a part of that closed circle of victims?
Well, here’s the thing. I have to say that I started off reading the book feeling like I was an outsider, that the book was written specifically for the people mentioned in the book, and that honestly if you weren’t in the book, you weren’t in on the joke. And to begin with, the book felt like name-dropping. People were introduced with complete full names – not shortened names, absolutely not speaking from pov. You wouldn’t, for instance, see “Sadie Hartmann” on a street, surely, you would see “Sadie”, and her surname would be revealed later? So, every time a new horror community member was mentioned, it was jarring. It was once again a reminder that the book was actually conceived for a writing community, and that it was, in fact, an in-joke, and one of which wasn't really meant for people outside of that circle of friends.
That said – I liked it. The increasingly bizarre ways the Roo went around indiscriminately killing the inhabitants of the backwoods village – it was pretty fun. The paranormal aspect of the book, when it came out, gave a certain clarity to the abilities of the Roo (although I have to say that murky-east-Europe as a source for all witch-crafty things is a little cliché), and the increasingly desperate measures of the townsfolk in trying to kill the Roo made the whole thing more fun. I regret that we never got to see the dynamite in action, I think that would have been pretty funny. Perhaps we could get it included in a “Roo-Two”?
Then we got to the end, and Baxter drops an afterword on us that, actually, makes us aware that throughout the book, he’s been sowing the seeds of a social commentary that is so important that we have lost sight of it in the fun we have been having with the Roo.
And that is why you have to love Alan Baxter.
Even in an in-joke, even in a book written specifically for a group of friends, in a story based around a Kangaroo with demonic abilities and a thirst for death - we have a personal commentary on something happening in real life, right now, right this second, perhaps to someone you know, or love, or choose to ignore (because to accept the reality of that situation and not be able to do anything – well, that’s actual horror happening in front of us). And actually, living in that situation, being on the receiving end of abuse, what more powerful rage could be felt than from the unjustified victim? I’m not surprised the Roo was unstoppable.
And that is the genius of the man. He cares.
Another 5 out of 5 ⭐ review here, to add to the collection. A pleasure, as always, Alan.
You can buy The Roo by clicking on the Amazon store appropriate to you.
You can visit Alan's Website, HERE.
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