The porkalypse continues with this hammy sequel to a the hog-fueled pig out of Man vs. Javelina action in the original Tuskers. If I was going to hear the basis for a series of horror novels by the normally serious dark fantasy press Ragnarok Publications then "intelligent pigs vs. humans" wouldn't have been my first choice.
However, Tuskers proved to be a pearl among swine for its surprising ability to tell a effective horror novel about a ridiculous subject. The best parodies are always good examples of the genre they're parodying and Tuskers succeeds in the same way Tremors did by refusing to treat the ludicrous premise as anything other 100% serious.
Still, after the first twisted tale of a Utah town overrun by Ms. Piggy's badass brothers, it seemed like a story which had run its course. Where does one go from here? Well, Duncan McGeary pulls yet another rabbit (or should I say piglet) out of his hat with a decision to do Rise of the Planet of the Apes with porkers. The shift in genre is just what we needed here and I half wonder if Tuskers III, promised in the ending, will be a parody of Twilight or the paranormal romance genre.
The premise is a single Tusker successfully escaped from the slaughter of his kind during the climax of the original novel. This unnaturally intelligent peccary, Genghis, proceeds to establish his own herd of descendants with an eye to creating an army which will destroy the human race. Kidnapping local humans, he proceeds to force them to educate his offspring while he settles on trying to figure out a means of accomplishing his goal.
Simultaneously, Barry and Jenny, two of the surviving humans from the original book have inherited a vast fortune from a friend killed off by the hyper-aggressive boar. Their dead patron determined the Tuskers are more or less zombies, vampires, and Daleks all rolled into one so he sets our heroes out (via his will) to find any survivors so they can be killed.
Neither Barry or Jenny is particularly enthusiastic about this task as they recognize the Tuskers are a new species and genocide might not be the best way to handle them even if their leader is determined to wipe out humanity. This unexpected display of empathy expressed toward the creatures on our dinner plate was a welcome one and added to the book's surprising gray vs. gray morality.
Meanwhile, at Pigtown, the third generation of Tuskers aren't as aggressive as their forebearer wants them to me. Possessed of superhuman intelligence, they quickly absorb everything they are taught but find themselves less and less interested in slaughtering mankind. Goliath and Petunia, two of the third generation, even befriend one of their human captives. They, perhaps vainly, hope to prevent a war as Barry and Jenny's makeshift mercenary army is more interested in getting paid than caring about whether intelligent boar are killed.
This is more of a science-fiction novel than a horror novel but the shift in genre isn't a bad thing and there's a surprising interjection of a very-very familiar trope at the end which sets up the events of Tuskers III (and no, it's not going to be a romance). I liked the themes of tolerance, understanding, and eating your enemies. Ultimately, it's unlikely humans will sit down with the Tuskers and share a bag of truffles but wouldn't it be nice if they could?
Is the plot ridiculous? Absolutely. The Tuskers create a underground city of stolen technology and arm themselves with weapons despite lacking opposable thumbs. The sheer sincerity of the author in setting up his ridiculous premise, though, elevates the story and makes it entertaining. The Planet of the Apes nods are subtle but prevalent and just makes the story ebven more entertaining as I couldn't help but pick up on all the references. I'm hoping we'll be seeing a Caesar among the fourth generation of ultra-javelinas.
If you're looking for a light, easy-to-read horror novel then the original Tuskers is a good place to start. If you enjoyed the original plot and are willing to accept a genre shift then this is an even better one. I had a lot of fun with this novel and have no complaints about it--which is rare for my fiction these days.