Freak by Ron Sanders is a hard book to review. It is either one of the worst or one of the best books ever - the terrible, graphic nature of several violent scenes sicken and terrify the reader, but it is so mesmerizing, capturing the reader by the darkness within the characters.
When a Venice Beach woman is raped, it doesnít take long before the police capture her assailant: Nicholas Vilenov, a strange transient. The police link him to various rapes and other assaults, and he gets a pretty quick trial. Unfortunately, thatís where their troubles really begin.
Vilenov is a slick manipulator, controlling every situation heís in. His first scenes with his defense attorney demonstrate his true power, where the attorney is reduced to nothing more than Vilenovís mindless puppet.
The rape and death scenes are more gripping and heart-stopping than those in any Hollywood film. The opening scenes in particular, with the womanís rape and a later mass riot, are unforgettable.
The odd thing is Vilenovís powers of manipulation donít just work on the characters; a change goes through the reader as well. During the depraved and violent opening, the reader is determined to hate and fear Vilenov, but during the mesmerizing trial when Vilenov explains his life history, one can almost picture him turning his gray eyes to the reader until you may not be rooting for him, but
do gain some understanding of the man behind the monster.
It is to Sandersí credit that he creates a character that is both detestable and charismatic. We donít completely excuse him for his assaults, but we donít despise him, either. The more the reader gets into Vilenovís head, the more you realize what an uncomfortable place it is to be.