Right to Life, by Jack Ketchum

right-to-life-by-jack-ketchum coverGenre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Gauntlet Press
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Ray Wallace

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OVERVIEW: A collection by Jack Ketchum that includes the novella Right to Life plus two short stories, “Brave Girl” and “Returns.”

DETAILS: Okay, picture this: You’re a woman (just work with me on this one guys). You’ve been having an affair with a married man whom you truly love and he truly loves you. But he does have a family that he’s responsible for. You end up getting pregnant. Now what do you do? Have the child? Well, you both decide that that can’t happen. The strain it would put on his marriage, you raising the child without a father. You both decide that an abortion would be for the best.

He’s a good guy, drives you down to the local clinic, let’s you out near the entrance, goes to park the car. A few demonstrators are hanging around near the front of the building; they direct a little of their hatred your way but nothing really nasty happens. That is until a car you don’t recognize pulls up and someone jumps out, grabs you, drags you into the car, pushes a needle into your arm and it’s nighty-night time. Houston, we have a problem….

This is the scenario that occurs in the first chapter of Jack Ketchum’s Right to Life, a disturbing tale of one woman’s fight to adapt and survive while being held captive by a pair of obviously deranged individuals, to say the least. The woman’s name is Sara Foster and after being abducted she awakens to find herself in a dark, enclosed space. A coffin? she wonders frantically. No such luck. This is definitely one of those tales that goes from bad to worse and even worse still. Bondage sessions, molestation, beatings and other tortures. How much can she possibly take? And why is any of this happening? Can the all-pervasive Organization that her captors have told her about truly exist? Can there really be a group of powerful individuals who have been watching her and her loved ones, waiting for the right moment to make their move, to take her and use her for their vile purposes? Or are her captors acting alone, simply using tales of this Organization to keep her in line. After all, she doesn’t want any of her friends or family hurt or killed, does she?

And so she waits and she endures and she does what she must to live another day while all along the baby inside her grows… The book claims that this tale is based on a true story. If so, then it once again helps prove the old adage that truth is definitely stranger than fiction. And sometimes more horrifying.

As for the two follow-up tales they are worthwhile reads, one dealing with a little girl who shows courage well beyond her years, the other a ghost story that is simultaneously extremely cold-hearted and very touching. Yes, a pair of good stories which seem rather tame, however, compared to the novella, Right to Life, a reading experience filled with shocking images that will not be easily forgotten. Read at your own risk!

BOTTOM LINE: Another good showing from one of today’s true masters of dark fiction. The short stories are good, the novella excellent. One of the most dread filled page-turners of the year.

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