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White Tribe, by Gene O'Neill
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Elder Signs Press
Published: 2006
Review Posted: 5/29/2007
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 6 out of 10

White Tribe, by Gene O'Neill

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Off the coast of California, submerged in the Pacific Ocean, a prehistoric beast lies in suspended animation. But when an ancient prophecy is fulfilled, the creature will rise again to seek out others of its own kind - after satisfying its gnawing hunger.

In White Tribe, Gene O'Neill dredges up the overly familiar "monster attacks isolated survivors" storyline. Here, the catastrophe that sets everything in motion is a massive earthquake; the creature is Najicho-a-tua, the She-Beast Without Color; the diverse yet cliched cast includes a prison inmate plotting revenge, a writer struggling with alcoholism, and an artist considering a same-sex fling. Readers expecting a final showdown in which the strangers put aside their differences to defeat the monster will be disappointed: O'Neill seems winded from the effort of bringing his characters together, and ends the novella quickly thereafter.

Perhaps it's just as well; the author doesn't display a deft touch with dialogue or character interaction. As the story begins, one woman deflects another's romantic interest by means of an almost clinical explanation: "This is moving a little too fast at the moment. I am still in the process of recovering emotionally from a serious relationship." After bonding in the midst of crisis, however, the ladies decide to make love under the stars, despite the fact that a creature boasting a hundred-foot wingspan swooped down and killed a man only minutes before; the lovers' passion doesn't cool at all while watching the victim's corpse being carried away. O'Neill's handling of Najicho-a-tua is equally odd: He equips the prehistoric she-beast with a high-tech "special internal sensory network reading like a radar screen with several large infrared blips."

The author fares best when grounding his writing in reality. First, he crafts an effective and foreboding prologue about the secluded "Lost Coast" of Northern California. Next, O'Neill creates a plausible-sounding underwater vault for his legendary monster, drawing on past experience as a seismic worker. But soon his italicized tour book-style descriptions of Mendocino, Fort Bragg, and the Benbow Inn become intrusive; surely such details could have been integrated better.

Gene O'Neill builds a stage and introduces his actors in White Tribe, then abruptly pulls the curtain shut as if he knows his production isn't quite ready. The author has since expanded the piece into a full-length novel called "Lost Tribe"; undoubtedly, the increased page count will be more suited to the story he is trying to tell.
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