Pete Kahle “The Specimen” Review

Posted: September 7, 2014 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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The Specimen


Publisher: Createspace

Length: 512 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

I have been a huge fan of anything having to do with aliens for most of my life. When I was younger, I would head down to the local library and check out every single book about aliens I could get my hands on. I started out with children’s books ranging from the My Teacher Is an Alien series by Bruce Coville to Animorphs by K.A. Applegate before quickly moving on to adult sci-fi novels and true life accounts of alien encounters. I began checking out every book about aliens I could get my hands on about the Roswell incident, the Betty and Barney Hill abduction and numerous other well-known and obscure encounter cases. While the fiction works I read were highly entertaining, they were not really frightening. My fear of extraterrestrials and UFOs grew out of reading these true life accounts. Besides the obvious fear of the unknown, what frightened me the most was the stories about abductions. What could possibly be scarier than the possibility that entities from all across the universe could easily snatch you away from everything you know at will? In a majority of these encounters, the people who are taken are powerless to do anything to stop the aliens from taking them. Even if they did attempt to escape once taken, where would they go? They are on a spaceship without any possibility of returning to their homes, being totally at the whim of these beings. To this day, watching or reading experiences like this still sends shivers down my spine.

Pete Kahle taps into those dark fears with astonishing power in his debut novel, The Specimen. The novel is a sprawling horror/ science fiction hybrid with an enormous cast of characters, a timeline that spans centuries and some seriously terrifying aliens!

One of the most impressive aspects of The Specimen is Kahle’s creation of The Riders. While the aliens main characteristic of latching on to a host – known in the novel as a “Steed” – is a familiar concept (Invasion of the Body Snatchers immediately comes to mind), Kahle manages to make the creatures feel fresh and unique. Kahle brings their personalities and motivations to light through a series of Interlude sections that follow the actions of Riders throughout recorded history. These Interludes range from an ancient coming-of-age ritual in Estonia in the 23rd Century BC where The Riders begin to spread throughout the world through the horrific events of The Holocaust. The Riders are extremely intelligent, able to tap into the memories of its host and exploit them in order to blend into society and carry out its nefarious agenda. Not only are they able to control their hosts, they have the ability to influence other humans and creatures by releasing pheromones that influence that person or animals behavior to aid it in avoiding detection or capture.

They are able to heal themselves and their host as long as their central nervous system is not destroyed which makes them an extremely formidable adversary. As evil as The Riders are portrayed throughout the novel, the ACME group that is supposedly trying to save the human race is just as vicious and deadly as the creatures they are battling. The group, which has been around since the end of the 17th century, has kidnapped, tortured and killed people who had contact with The Riders, even if they were innocent. The most ruthless of these agents is easily Nina Valentine, a woman who joined the group following a horrific incident in her past. She doesn’t just inflict pain on those who may be under the influence of Riders because it’s a necessary evil in the quest against the aliens, she actually enjoys it. Her ruthlessness plays a major role in the events that shape The Specimen.

I loved Kahle’s decision to break up the main plot with Interludes, fictional news reports and dispatches from the shadowy ACME agency. Kahle uses these supplementary passages to flesh out the history of both The Riders and The ACME group and show the connections between the characters in the novel. This is also how we learn about The Cluster, a mysterious entity that is connected to The Riders but whose motivations are murky for most of the novel. It shares many of its powers with The Riders, but it is unique in that it does not need a host and can change its appearance at will.

The only drawback to The Specimen is that the timeline of events is muddled at times due to the large scope of the story. I originally thought that keeping track of the characters would be the most difficult part of reading the novel, but Kahle does an excellent job giving each one of them a distinctive personality that helps them stand out on their own. However, a lot of the characters disappear for long portions of the novel which makes it difficult to keep track of how much time has passed. Are these events taking course over a few days of the novel? Weeks?

Despite the occasional confusion regarding the timeline, The Specimen is an impressive debut novel and one hell of a thrill ride! There is plenty of action, gore and  creepy alien awesomeness that makes this a must read for any horror or sci-fi fan. Kahle has mentioned he has plans for a sequel and I am definitely looking forward to continuing the story of The Riders and the ACME group. I am curious to see how the rag-tag group of survivors handle the upcoming threat introduced in The Specimen I am definitely looking forward to learning more about The Cluster!

Kahle is definitely an author to watch and I can’t wait to see what other dark stories he has swirling around his imagination!

Rating: 4/5


Pete Kahle’s Official Website

Pete Kahle on Twitter

Purchase The Specimen on Amazon


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