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Caesarea

by Tony Burgess

In Tony Burgess’s Caesarea, the final book in his Bewdley trilogy and the name of a fictional small Ontario town, strange things are happening. Caesarea’s figurehead mayor has recently been replaced by a dwarf doppelganger. Neo-Nazi environmentalists have accidentally unleashed purveyors of kiddie snuff-porn on the town. And after years of increasing tensions, a so-called war is being waged between the town’s respectable citizenry and the white trash from the Buddy Holly trailer park down the road.

The monsters in Caesarea are more elusive than those of Burgess’s earlier books. Whereas Burgess’s first book, The Hellmouths of Bewdley, had a very real but subtle dread, his second book, Pontypool Changes Everything (recently optioned for film by director Bruce McDonald), maintained the cartoonish, camp horror of a vintage late show. Caesarea goes one step further, marrying the harsh reality of an evening newscast to the extreme gore of a slasher movie: where Pontypool was steeped in ketchup, Caesarea uses real blood.

Here, something mysterious seems to be causing insomnia among the inhabitants of the sleepy little town. The mad, dope-fiend character of Dr. Mendez makes a brief appearance in Caesarea but other characters from the previous books are absent. While Pontypool ended with a brilliant set-up – two monster babies taking up residence at the bottom of Lake Scugog – the lake in Caesarea seems to claim many victims but the connection between the monsters and their victims’ deaths isn’t made.

Although Caesarea has moments of the earlier books’ cinematic quality, it isn’t maintained. The climax itself is effective, but it arrives without adequate build-up and consequently doesn’t make sense.

Caesarea is a noble attempt to complete the Bewdley trilogy. Nevertheless, it reads like a rushed, incomplete effort, and lacks the inventiveness and creative excitement of Burgess’s first two novels.