Book Review: Tribesmen by Adam Cesare

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2012’s Tribesmen, one of Adam Cesare’s earlier pieces, has recently been granted an awesome new cover by expert designer Matt Revert. As a result, there’s renewed interest in the book, which harks back to and homages classic Italian cannibal movies of the past like Cannibal Holocaust. Tightly plotted, it features a fun and colourful cast of characters, gripping action sequences and some excellent gore visuals.

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Matthew Revert’s excellent new cover.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading two of Cesare’s novels and a short story, and it’s easy to see why the author has received plenty of praise for his works. He’s got a real knack for writing horror that’s slick and easy to read. For me, he really invokes some of that juvenile joy I used to get from watching action horror films as a teenager. Cesare knows exactly how to keep you on the edge of your seat while still making you care about the characters.

That said, the characters in Tribesmen are a larger-than-life cast of film-makers, actors, production assistants and ghosts. Amongst this assembly, the pre-requisite characters are fleshed out in glorious detail. In particular, Cesare provides us with an arrogant actor named Umberto, a sleazy director named Tito, a conflicted cinematographer named Denny, a desperate screenwriter named Jacques and tough-as-nails final girl, Cynthia. These characters – aside from the ghosts – are tasked with producing an answer to the fore-mentioned Italian cannibal films on a budget. And that’s where the ghosts come in.

“I can give you what you want, Umberto. I can give you the role that will make you known all over the world.” The figure ignored his question, and he began to forget that he had even asked one to begin with. The shape’s offer echoed in his head.

“What would I have to do?” he asked.

The shape smiled, first as an old black woman, then as a tall bearded white man glistening with sweat and grime. “To begin, go back to the village and get a blade.”

Adam Cesare. Tribesmen. Ravenous Shadows.

In the novel’s explosive opening, Cesare gives us a prologue detailing the horrors that led to the deaths of the Island’s indigenous tribe and the curse that’s left behind. From there, things happen quickly. We join the cast and crew of the forthcoming movie en route to this unnamed Island and Cesare wastes no time in letting things go awry. Before you’ve had a chance to breathe, some of the characters – driven by the curse and the ghosts of the long-gone tribe – are set at odds in particularly gruesome fashion. Obviously, the death-toll rises.

With Umberto, Denny and Tito acting as a crazed trio of antagonists, Cynthia and Jacques have to survive a series of brutal attacks, taut chase scenes and bloody battles. Throughout all of this, Cesare’s breakneck pacing and ability to build tension through a plot that makes it feel like there’s no escape for our protagonists, make this a real page-turner.

Wrapping her hand around the base of a large branch, she used one foot to break it off. A club to defend herself. The snap was muffled, but still loud enough that it was possible Umberto may have heard it below. She tried to swing the branch, keeping one arm around the tree for support. It wasn’t going to beat a machete, that was for sure, but it was better than nothing. It was smaller than a Louisville Slugger, but so jagged and pointed at the broken end that she contemplated for a moment whether it wouldn’t make a better spear than a club. The footsteps were close now.

Adam Cesare. Tribesmen. Ravenous Shadows.

In summary, this one is short, savage and simply gripping. If that’s your thing, pick it up. With Matthew Revert’s killer new cover and Cesare’s trademark brutality in full swing, you’ll have a book that looks awesome on your shelf as well as one that’s entertaining from start to finish.

Four stars.

You can purchase a copy here. Tribesmen by Adam Cesare

Get the audiobook here.

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