by Weston Ochse
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted November 6, 2022
Not listed at Bookshop. Available for Kindle, audible, and hardcover from Amazon. A purchase through our links may earn us a commission.
This is not your daughter’s unicorn. No glittery pink stuffed animal. No. The Red Unicorn means certain death…
Red Unicorn is not directly connected to Ochse's previous novel Bone Chase, but it does share a theme, that of six-fingered people and their possible connection to ancient (and maybe still existing) giants, as had been mentioned in the Bible and other religious/mystical texts. It's possible his research yielded information that didn't fit the scenario of the earlier book. The giants referenced here are those of Patagonia, described by Magellan and other members of his crew, as well as that of the later expedition headed by Sir Francis Drake. Other elements were inspired by Bruce Chatwin's first travel book, In Patagonia, which detailed some particularly gruesome native traditions. Set in 1982, the main character is Amboy Stevens, born in Tennessee, member of a reclusive family of backwoodsmen and miners. He worked the mines himself during his youth, but that and other things made him want to leave the area, so he joined the Army, serving in Vietnam at the tail end of that conflict. Amboy has six fingers on both hands, as did several other people he knew, possibly distant cousins.
After Vietnam he traveled with an Army buddy to Argentina, where he got a job in a mine there. He became close friends with another mine worker, and unfortunately had to be the bearer of bad news to that family after Santiago died in an accident. Later, Santiago's brother Thiago introduces Amboy to a priest who needs someone to protect a woman who has amnesia. Apparently she is being pursued by others who wish her harm. I won't go into many details of the adventures he and Lettie have, both together and apart. They meet several different secretive groups, all the while wondering whom they can trust. Another complication is this is occurring at the same time as Argentina's conflict with the UK over the Falkland Islands, or as they are known in Argentina, Islas Malvinas. Part of their journey includes Rio Gallegos, site of a major Argentinian naval base, the Falklands being due east of that. From Buenos Aires all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, with multiple stops along the way, this is both an action/adventure story, as well as a supernatural horror story.
Lettie thinks she has been in Argentina just a few weeks, a few months at the most, but they later learn she is missing two years, as well as memories of her prior life, although a few things occasionally return to her. She has a weird tattoo on her back she does not recall getting, but it is possible she got that at the same time she went to Rio Gallegos to have a port wine stain birthmark removed from one side of her face. That had been in the shape of the state of Alabama, but she still has another on the other cheek, which looks like Florida. She also has six fingers on each hand, as well as six toes on each foot, two extra digits than Amboy. Does her unique physical attributes have anything to do with why others are after her? Is it fate that brought another six-fingered person into her life? What is waiting for them at the far end of South America? Can they avoid it, or is it their destiny?
The Amazon listing says it is independently published, but not through them or else it would say Kindle Direct Publishing. A further search revealed it is from a small press, Aethon Books. I bought the Kindle version, but since it says shipping for the hardcover may be two-three weeks, it could indicate print-on-demand. It is not without a few editing problems, but I see that in other Kindle titles, as well as print books, even from major publishers, so it was not anything that detracted from my enjoyment. But two errors in particular were jarring; one was the misspelling of the name of a country, the other was a homophone, a word that sounds the same as the one I'm sure he meant to use, but spelled differently, although it is possible he meant to use that word as a metaphor for a particular situation. Those minor criticisms aside, it is an intense and interesting story. Violent and repellent at times, and I can't say I liked the ending, but it was exciting from beginning to end.
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