Brett Rutherford’s “The Lost Children”

Lost Children
Sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover.  Look at that image.  Doesn’t really tell you much, does it?

But…

What if I told you that the skeleton, broken doll and book title are all beveled and embossed?

If you’ve ever read a mass-market fiction book from the ’80s, you’ll recognize those details.  Much like a soft white cover–with an oval cut out of it to reveal a hand painted portrait of a shirtless guy and a swooning woman–will let everyone know that a book is about fucking…  that embossed skeleton on black background tells the ’80s reader exactly what they’re getting into. 

HORRRR-RRROR

HORRRR-RRROR

What you’ve got here is a cheesey premise sketchily linking together a bunch of horror-ifying scenes.  Seriously.  Just look at that list of Tags down there.  This thing hits all the bases.  And it executes them all flawlessly hilariously.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  This book even starts like a joke.  Two nuns are smoking pot in a secret garden.  I shit you not.  That’s your opening chapter.  When they hear children’s voices screaming in the ol’ abandoned mine nearby, they run off.  Probably in search of Scoob and the gang.

Ha ha! Like, Fuck that, man.  This book is shit. Runh Huh!

Ha ha! Like, fuck that, man. This book is shit!
Runh Huh!

Meanwhile, some overly religious patron for a super-secret-definitely-not-shady-charity-organization finds the town’s local school principal, and tells him that the organization he represents wants to give two high-risk students, and two high-achiever students, a shiny, new, FREE COMPUTER.  There’s absolutely no strings attached, except that the organization must remain secret, and is absolutely not shady in any way.  Don’t worry, they’ve never even been to Ogdenville or North Haverbrook.

Enter the Four Kids.  By some incredible coincidence, the two highest academic achievers in Local School just happen to be in a secret We-Love-Shit-Disturbing-With-Science Club with the two highest-risk kids. They’ve named the club The Cougars.  The membership includes Divorced-Mom-With-Stepdad Boy, Coddled-Good-Student Boy, Smart-But-Jealous-Of-The-New-Baby Girl and My-Mother’s-A-Whore Girl.  We’re introduced to them as they try to Frankenweenie a neighbour’s cat because they’re sure it’ll work because they’ve got some kind of switch or something.

Well, once these innocent but misguided kids get a hold of their shiny new computers, they discover that they’re not nearly as lame as FREE COMPUTER might imply.  They come with an awesome War Game–literally titled War Games–that awards points for treating POWs cruelly (but unfortunately has nothing to do with Matthew Broderick).  The graphics are amazing.  If that’s not enough, there’s this awesome Private Tutor that can talk, listen and project subliminal messages see what’s going on.  It gets the kids to hook up the phone-line into the back of the computer, and offers them helpful advice like “WOULDN’T YOU BE HAPPIER IF YOUR STEPFATHER DIED?” and “KILL THE DOG.”

BABYDIED

So, some terrible shit happens.  One of the nuns gets sent for Electro-Shock Therapy, which (SURPRISE!) turns out to be at the hands of a rapey lunatic mad psychiatrist who has a snake tattooed on his dick.  The kids get compu-brainwashed by, as it turns out, elongated blue Alien-Human Hybrids being managed by a complete asshat human who’s selling out the rest of humanity to a crash landed alien who lives in a bubble.  Parents die, kids are tentacle raped, and the day is saved by a kid with a mean streak and colour-blindedness.  In the end, unwilling to face the consequences of step-patricide, one kid flies off in a space ship, presumably to bully the kid from Flight of the Navigator.

All in all, this thing runs the complete Sci-Fi/Horror gamut.  You’ve got your completely tacked on religious characters to provide the Religion-Is-Mind-Control/Science-Creates-Mind-Control comparison.  You’ve got a guy selling out the world for money.  You’ve got a human weakness triumphing over superior technology.  You’ve got tentacle rape.  You’ve got an abandonned mine turned into secret society/military facility.  You’ve got kids acting like adults.  You’ve got SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING.  And there’s more.  It’s like a shitty American Horror Story up in this bitch.  If you can think of a trope, this has got it covered.  Poorly.

But… that’s why the book works.  The 80s was all about novels with Way-Too-Adult Content “definitely not” being written for–but still being read by–Young Adult audiences.  Maybe today we rail against the violence present in The Hunger Games… but in middle school I was reading Stephen King as he stuck a clothes-pin on a dick, or cut a guy’s balls open with a straight razor.  So, as I said in the opening, what you get here is exactly what you should expect.  Even on those grounds it’s more cheesey and hilarious than scary…  but that’s exactly what these black, embossed skeleton covered novels always delivered.

Unfortunately, even the best of this kind of regurgitated chum can really only rank at

3/5

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6 comments on “Brett Rutherford’s “The Lost Children”

    • I think you’re going about it wrong. We need to get Nic Cage to read it. Then… cast him, Eddie Murphy style, in every single adult male role. The crazy shrink, the asshole principal, the overly religious guy who gives away the computers without knowing the cost, the local Johns, the drunk stepdad… He’d play them all perfectly.

      Age the kids about 3 more years, like in Game of Thrones… 16 instead of 13. Get 4 DisneyXD kids that are just about too old to work there anymore, and are worried about fading off into squeaky clean obscurity.

      Oh man… I’m legitimately disappointed this is never going to happen now.

    • It’s close. If it was honestly as awesome as the cover looks, it might’ve broken through the 3/5 barrier. But it was as craptastic as I had hoped going in, so there were no disappointments.

  1. OK. This is a message from the guy who wrote the book. Seriously. Your review is spot-on and is very, very funny. I sold this book to Zebra, the schlockiest of the publishers in the possessed-kid genre and I remember telling the editor not to worry about the sci-fi bits because they were nothing her readers hadn’t seen in National Enquirer. Of course it’s almost all tongue-in-cheek and I employed all the things you said, and more. By the time I was done, I realized I could never write another one of these without dying of giggle fits while doing so. The only literary merit I can claim is that I based the large plot idea on Victor Hugo’s novel, 93, which starts with a whole bunch of characters who have no relationship to one another, except every one of them comes into a final pivotal scene. And that’s what I pulled off. It may be junk, but it was fun to do and I met a lot of people who had fun reading it. No higher claims are made. I have the rights to this book and could reprint it, but the one thing that most holds me back is that the computer technology described in it is now laughable — your cell phones can do more. So this book may just stay dead. I appreciate the energy and humor you put into your review.

    • Wow. Three things:

      1) Thanks for this comment. This is the first time (I presume) something I’ve discussed or reviewed has been seen by its creator. It’s definitely the first time a creator has commented. It feels kinda weird, actually. I’m really glad you enjoyed it, though.

      2) Thanks for this book. It’s so-bad-its-good at its finest. Since you still own the rights, please, please get this in the hands of one or more of the people producing SyFy original movies. Add a shark, if that’s what it takes…but please get it made.

      3) I had no idea you weren’t a one-off pseudonym. I just assumed your name was a Jack McKinney kind of deal. I just took a look at your links, and Goodreads page, though and see that you did another book for Zebra. Going to have to find it now.

      I think I might now be your new #1 fan. Not a big Poetry guy, though. You might not want to drive on any snowy Atlantic Canadian roads for a bit. I’m not Annie Wilkes… but I could be.

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