Nemesai by John Urbancik and Brian Keene

It starts with the red dreams. Everyone has them every night. But they’re just a precursor, because something deep within the bowels of the earth has awakened—something we defeated and sent back thousands of years ago. First, there are scouts which decimate cities, and the armies of humanity find their weapons impotent.

Enter Atiya Destine, professional adventurer and mercenary. She and her team will venture deep into the middle of China to follow the scouts back to where they came from: a hole in earth once protected by thousands of warriors awaiting the return of humanity’s Nemesai.

Enter Jane, a survivor of the destruction of Shanghai. Enter Stefan, trying to put down the unstoppable Nemesai with his fists.

They’ll enter the tomb of China’s first emperor, untouched for thousands of years, with rivers of mercury and pearls as stars in its sky hiding an underground city. Somewhere in that tomb, Atiya Destine hopes to find a way of driving back the rising army before it’s too late.

Enter the Nemesai. They cannot be stopped.

The IndieMuse Review

Pacific Rim meets Tomb Raider.

A Kaiju horror book is something I can honestly say was completely new to me prior to reading Nemesai by John Urbancik and Brian Keene and, knowing I was in good hands with two such accomplished writers, this is a book I have been looking forward to reading for a while now.

Atiya is a mercenary for hire. She and her team have travelled the globe, adventuring and offering their services to the highest bidder.

When people across the globe begin to experience the same disturbing dreams, filled with red visions of chaos and destruction, the world finds itself under attack from giant creatures that have come without warning. They decimate cities, destroying everything in their path. Ayita travels with her team to China, where the attacks originated, to an underground city where they hope to find the key to stopping the Nemesai before there is no world left to save.

It was a pleasant surprise to note that the book was to be co-written by both John Urbancik and Brian Keene as, while I read and enjoy both writers, their usual styles are polar opposites. Brian Keene’s fiction tends to be written in a direct and raw style whereas John Urbancik falls very firmly into the literary. You would not expect such disparate approaches to result in an easy collaboration, but it works very effectively with Nemesai. It was a great deal of fun to read an unapologetically pulp concept that is written so expressively and elegantly.

The characters all felt very individual and memorable, which is an impressive accomplishment for such a short book with so many characters to serve. I particularly liked how the Nemesai were portrayed, as there was more nuance and complexity to them than simply giant monsters there to create conflict. There are hints at a much larger history and backstory that gives just enough away to keep things interesting, without spoiling the mystery.

There were so many strong concepts in this book that its strengths ultimately serve to spotlight its biggest weakness. Nemesai is a lean book (138 pages) and there are a lot of big ideas, and a big cast of characters, that we get little time to explore. The ideas of the dark dreams and the history of the Nemesai are touched upon, but never fully explored. The big-scale action is mostly relayed quickly or told second hand, so the burden of setting the stakes falls on the teams of mercenaries, who are largely removed from the action until the midway point. I couldn’t help thinking that there was a novel’s worth of ideas packed into a novella-length work.

Nemesai is a unique and enjoyable read and while I wish more time could have been spent getting to know the characters better, and doing a bit more world-building, the end result is still an entertaining collaboration of two talented writers bringing their A-game to a different kind of horror tale.


Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

2 reviews for Nemesai by John Urbancik and Brian Keene

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  1. Aja Puzo  

    I absolutely loved this book! I’m looking forward to reading more from the author. Highly recommended!

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  2. Taneka Becenti  

    One of my favorite books of the year so far!

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