Most of us have fantasies, but I’m willing to bet that we normally don’t want to publish them in novel form. But it seems like Richard Laymon has no problem expressing his deviant sexual wishes in Blood Games, a novel about five post-college women who explore the woods, a cabin, and themselves on a camping excursion to a supposedly haunted lodge. Laymon’s protagonists are women, and he writes from the perspective of a woman – not strange, and many authors have done it well. But Laymon writes as though he watched a bunch of lesbian porn before and while penning the novel, then thought mimicking those films would be the most realistic plot device for his book.
The story follows Abilene, a young woman who accompanies her five friends into the woods for a reunion visit. Those friends are Finley, Helen, Cora, and Vivian, her college buddies who have decided that exploring a haunted lodge alone is their idea of fun. They spend a lot of their time swimming in pools, taking hikes, and stripping naked in front of each other before they realize that there’s a killer watching them in the woods, just waiting to stab them in their nether regions with knives.
The first thing that most readers will notice about Blood Games is that it’s written with male readers in mind. These girls have no problems taking their clothes off in front of each other, having sex orgies with each other, or filming each other in the shower. The eroticism apparent in these encounters isn’t as sexy as it might seem – Laymon’s prose feels lecherous, as though he’s an old man writing about what he hopes college girls do with each other when they’re at home alone. Their excuse for stripping off their clothes is about as detailed as “it’s hot outside.” Well, New York just went through a heat wave and I’ve yet to see any bare chests.
Still, the lesbian tendencies Laymon throws can be overlooked if there’s a good story. But that’s the problem – the girls’ naked romps through the woods basically is the story. At about 500 pages, Blood Games is 40% dedicated to the girls’ revenge on people in college, their treks through the woods, and the shapes of their bodies when they get naked to go swimming. This Girls Gone Wild approach doesn’t really work that well – not only is it unbelievable, it’s also boring. Laymon spends way too much time with overly detailed passages about walking in the woods or eating hot dogs, as though he had an agreement with his publisher to hit a certain page count.
And this is coming from a person who generally likes Laymon’s work. There’s just too much filler and not enough real action; then again, most of the action comes from passages like, “She was sweaty so she let her boobs hang out.” (Laymon’s a little more verbose than that.) What’s worse though is the weird character developments late in the book. I just don’t buy the fact that one of these women will seduce and strip a minor, then commit statutory rape in front of her friends. But I really don’t buy the notion that the other girls might think this is normal and want to join in too!
Heed the warnings of the other reviewers that have read this book – Blood Games is a book you’ll want to skip. It’s like playing an endless game of Monopoly with a bunch of porn directors – and your grandfather.