By: CJ on October 21, 2005  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Author: Jeff Strand
Publisher: Mundania Press
Pages: 206 (trade paperback)
I must confess that even as an avid reader Jeff Strand was not an author I had ever come across, so I took the chance to read and review his latest work, Mandibles.

The premise is very simple; genetically modified red fire ants are swarming across Tampa, Florida. These ants are not only oversized, they are also deadly, and soon the death toll is rising. A handful of survivors are left to fend off these mutant creatures and as the story progresses the paths of these survivors converge as they look for a way to end the madness. Throw in a pair of psycho killers for good measure and what you end up with is a highly enjoyable read.

Jeff Strand is a very capable writer, and has a very easy-to-read style. His writing is fluid and he is gifted with the rare talent of being able to flesh-out characters very quickly. The book is fairly short at a mere 206 pages, but Strand drives the story along at breakneck pace and never leaves the reader feeling bored. By the end of the story you feel quite satisfied and I felt that the story was plenty long enough. It's not the type of tale that demands hundreds of pages of character development, it's an adventure story at heart (though there are some gruesome shocks), and is told as such. The real stars of the story are, of course, the ants themselves – and Strand manages to make the reader suspend disbelief capably. He's obviously done a lot of research and knows his subject well, he also has a strong grasp of how to develop characterisation and storylines quickly and effectively and he will definitely be a writer to watch out for in the years ahead. I will certainly be seeking out his other works as I enjoyed this book immensely.

Mandibles is a hugely enjoyable read and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend. The story has enough twists and surprises to keep the reader interested and is a book that is accessible to even the most casual of readers, which is testament to Strand's skill as a writer. Well worth seeking out.
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