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WesternSFA
Seal Team 666
by Weston Ochse
St Martin's Press, $24.99, 310pp
Release Date: November 27, 2012
I was conflicted when I first saw this book, because while I love military SF, horror is not my genre of choice; nevertheless, having listened to Mr. Ochse talk on a number of panels over the years, I decided that I trusted him enough to follow him into hell. Best literary dare I’ve taken in a long time.

This is GOOD writing, laced with lots of humor, and it’s obvious that, howsoever, Ochse knows his horror, he get his military stuff directly from the source. The narrative crackles with authentic details, and if you have been in the military, these protagonists are the guys you wish you deployed with.

Seal Team 666 is the elite unit that deals with supernatural badness when it threatens the US of A. Whether it is capturing and disposing of demons in human form, stopping a banshee or a chupacabra, if dangerous magic is involved, they’re activated. Unfortunately, even the best men get killed in the line of duty, and all too often Alexis Billings has to find a replacement member for the team. This time, she needs a sniper, and the best man for that job is Jack Walker, even if he’s not quite through his Navy Seal training. One moment he’s doing push-ups in the sand, next thing he knows he’s on a plane meeting his future team mates.

There’s Tim Laws, who has autodidactic memory for what he hears and is a linguistics genius; Johnny Ruiz, an explosions expert; Tony Fratollito, who can make computers deliver their secrets; and Sam Holmes, his new commander.

So Walker becomes the FNG of Seal Team 666, but his presence is a calculated risk on Billing’s part. You see, Jack has an extremely unpleasant history, having himself been possessed by a demon when he was a child. This makes him keenly sensitive to certain sorts of evil; but unless he can master that hyper-awareness, it will be a lethal liability on missions. And he doesn’t have much time. A plot is under way to unleash hundreds of near-indestructible stone chimeras with a taste for blood on the world, so before his shin splints have time to heal, Walker and the others set out to prevent global terror. But they’ll never operate at their peak performance unless they become a team in spirit, not just in name.

It seems to me there are several ways of writing horror. One is to be demon-driven, or hag-ridden: the horror has the writer in its grips, and is feasting on the writer’s heart. An even worse form is when the author is deliberately luring readers into perverse realms, whether to profit monetarily or for darker objectives. But a few writers have neither sold their soul nor are controlled by the medium. They may ride the devil’s back or conjure demons, but they do so knowingly, and they illuminate the dark places; they are not trying to enthrall readers but to empower them.

As I see it, the only reasons for reading any book are to be transformed in a good way: to be, at the end of it, wiser, more courageous, more knowing, or at least more amused than you were before you started. Seal Team 666 hits the gold of all these targets. It is one of the rare horror genre stories I strongly recommend, and now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get the sequels. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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