A remote Florida swamp has been targeted for theme-park development, and the swamp's inhabitants are none too happy. It doesn't help that the residents are a colony of intelligent, prehistoric, dinosaur-like birds. This flock of beasts has escaped the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, relying on stealth, cunning, and killer instinct. The creatures have been living in secret, just outside our developed world.
As the developers push to have the recently-discovered animals exterminated, a billionaire rogue environmentalist step in to protect these rare, predatory creatures. A naïve young Fish and Wildlife officer finds himself caught in between these two incredibly powerful forces, and may find out the hard way that man is the most dangerous predator of them all . . .
The Flock is a contemporary eco-thriller about what can happen when man violates nature, and when nature fights back.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||8.74(w) x 11.80(h) x 0.97(d)|
About the Author
JAMES ROBERT SMITH lives with his wife, son, and two requisite cats near Charlotte, NC.
He has made more than sixty short story sales, has had his comic scripts published by Marvel Comics, Kitchen Sink, Spyderbabies Grafix, and others. He is co-editor of the Arkham House anthology, Evermore. The Flock is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
May 23, 1946
The Flock was out in the Sun. It had been a long time since they had moved in daylight. But this occasion required such a measure. They could not fail. Scattering in the tall grass, flashing between the longleaf pines, the Flock hunted.
Torelli had lost the wireless somewhere along the way. He wasn’t sure of the exact location, but he suspected it had been when they had crossed the small creek about half a mile behind. He hadn’t noticed, because that was where Bauman had been standing when one of those things had exploded from the brush. And before any of them could aim and fire, Bauman had gone down in a shower of blood.
The whole company had scattered after that, and Torelli had found himself afraid of being hit by the odd burp of one of the other soldiers’ automatics. His men were firing blind, shooting into the brush and into the trees and at one another. He was certain that Rainey had cut down Wilson out of pure fear, in his crazy panic to just get the hell away from whatever it was that was chasing them.
What were they?
Finally, Torelli found himself alone. It had been almost half an hour since he’d seen anyone. After Bauman had gone down, he’d caught a glimpse of Hopkins, the colored guy who had been added to the company the week before. Hopkins had been screaming; firing his weapon at every bush he passed as he ran like a crazy man. Torelli would have been hit by one of Hopkins’ bursts if he hadn’t seen where the guy was aiming and eaten dust. Soon after, he had gotten up and run again, racing across those weird grasslands with the palmettos and Spanish bayonet sticking up here and there among the pines. That had been Torelli’s last contact with his company. He was sure those final screams had been Hopkins.
It had been a brief sound.
Now, he was more worried than when the company had first encountered those things. If there weren’t anyone else to chase, they’d be after him, now. Torelli had glimpsed them. He’d never seen anything so big—not outside of a zoo. The largest ones were half again as tall as he was. And they were so fast. Jesus, he’d never imagined anything could move like that. Ralph Weiss, who’d just been made corporal, had been a sprinter at the University of Tennessee, and he’d been run down and stepped on as if he were sitting still. Torelli had watched, frozen, as the thing had stooped, its upper body vanishing in the grass, and had raised its bloodstained head holding a good portion of Ralph’s torso.
Stopping, peering at the tall prairie grass that shivered in the slight, Florida wind, Torelli was very afraid. He crouched, thinking that perhaps they hunted by movement and if he was out of sight, they couldn’t find him, for a while, at least. But there were so many of them. When the company had first started retreating, the things had spread out, like a well-trained platoon, cutting his squad into commander-less sections that could be taken down one by one. They were smart; that was certain.
Torelli got hold of his panic. He was a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was not going to let some kind of animal outsmart him. His men had panicked. They hadn’t listened to him. They’d been undisciplined. It was all Jenkins’ fault. If that idiot had listened to him, had stayed away from that bit of red in the brush…
Torelli hadn’t seen what Jenkins had seen, but he felt certain it had been one of their babies, several, perhaps. Because Jenkins had shot at whatever it was, and after that the madness had cut loose. The woods had swarmed with them. You wouldn’t think so many animals that big could have been all around them like that. Not and remained unseen. But they had.
He crouched down a little closer to the ground and tried to organize his thoughts. The teams were supposed to cross to the north side of the base and rendezvous with the D Company. He’d had the maps, and knew what route they were going to take. They’d been advised to steer east of the savanna that lay between the starting point and the rendezvous. Captain Stevens didn’t know that part of the base that well (nobody did, apparently), and he didn’t want anyone under his command slogging through unmapped swampy terrain. They’d lost some men in the swamps on the south side of the base the year before and they didn’t want that happening again. Now Torelli wondered if it had been just the swamp that had swallowed those men up.
The sun burned down on Torelli’s head, baking his jet-black hair. He rubbed his hand over his close-shaven scalp. Damn. He hadn’t even realized he’d lost his helmet. He pulled his gun tight to his bosom. That he still had, and he didn’t plan on losing it. He wasn’t going to panic like the others. When they came at him, he was going to fire steady, cold. He reached down with his left hand and made sure his spare clips were handy. They’d eat his rounds before he’d let them kill him.
Mosquitoes hummed at his ears, and gnats made their maddening song at the corners of his eyes. Florida was for shit, he decided. If he could just get out of here, he wasn’t ever coming back. He’d put in for a transfer to Alaska, by God. He’d go anywhere but bug-infested, hotbox, Florida.
And who would have bet on monsters? He had to stifle a laugh. He was cracking up. He had to be strong.
Torelli tried to remember where he was. He looked up, and figured he’d come about a mile west of the point where the company had come apart. If that was true, he was close to Aiken Creek, which emptied into Aiken Lake, which usually had half a dozen off-duty soldiers fishing out there or just lying around dozing with no sergeant to bother them. If he was careful, he could follow the creek down to the lake and yell for help, or commandeer a jeep if someone was there. He’d swim, if he had to, even though they’d all been briefed on the alligators that lived in the water on the base. The base was one of the few places left where you could see a gator; they’d been hunted out everywhere else.
He wondered who knew about these things. Someone had to know. Maybe they’d been sent out to test them, see how a couple of fire teams could stand up to them. If so, the things had passed with an almost perfect score: eleven men dead to none for them, unless Jenkins had killed a baby one. But he was still there. Anthony Torelli’s boy was still kicking, and he was damned if some animal was going to take him down without a fight.
Well, he’d rested enough. It was time to move out. Aiken Creek couldn’t be but a quarter mile or so away. That wasn’t far. He could do that, easy. All he had to do was look and listen, and watch where he stepped. That was all. Piece of cake.
Slowly, Torelli stood.
He was in the middle of a grassy plain. The young man, born and raised in a Philadelphia row house neighborhood, didn’t know that he was standing in the last upland longleaf savanna in Florida; all the rest of it had been cut down and plowed under and either planted in slash pines or had been paved over. This was the last, and it was a very strange thing to look at: primal. On a purely instinctive level, in something that tickled at some dim and faded racial memory, Torelli knew there was danger lurking out there, out in the tall grass.
Carefully, he took a step. Looked behind. Was intensely aware of what he picked up in his peripheral vision. He breathed slowly. Fear was in him, like a smoldering fire that threatened to flare into panic. He controlled it. Torelli took another step. From his right, he heard something. He tensed, bringing his gun up. Saw a gently sliding movement on the ground, in the grass. He breathed out a sigh as a long, brown water snake moved swiftly by like a living band of liquid. If the snake felt safe enough to move, maybe Torelli was safe.
He took another step.
But that snake had certainly been in a hurry. Torelli froze. He pivoted slowly, looking. The wind blew the tops of the grass so that it made patterns like breaking waves in the acres and acres around him. He was not alone. He felt it. If he was going to live, if he was ever going to make it to the lake, to the barracks, to a day when he would see his mom and dad and that Philadelphia neighborhood again, he was going to have to move and move fast.
Torelli broke into a run. The creek couldn’t be more than a quarter mile away. He could do that, easy. Just go. Don’t think about Hopkins (he’d screamed) or Bauman (his arms had been bitten right off) or Jenkins (run down like a rabbit) or the others (they were all dead). Torelli bit his tongue and refused to scream. He bit down hard and tasted blood in his mouth. Someone was screaming; he heard it, but it wasn’t him, it couldn’t be him. It was, though. Torelli was running, screaming.
And something was behind him. It was going to catch him. It was going to eat him. He stopped, skidding in the sandy soil, drawing his gun to his shoulder, and he fired a long burst into whatever it was that pursued.
Into thin air.
Nothing was there.
The Italian kid stood in this ancient, forgotten land and gasped and moaned. Alone, he cried. And, crying, he turned back along his path and trotted toward the creek, not looking back again.
So he did not see them as they rose up from the tall grass where they’d been crouching. He did not see them lift their huge heads high above, their long legs taking them swiftly over and through the sea of grass. Only at the end, at the very end, as three adults struck at him with heads as large as those of a horse, did he suspect what was coming. The sensation was intense and painful, and mercifully brief.
The Flock consumed the men. They left nothing. Bodies were sliced into small pieces and swallowed up. Clothing, too. The guns and other metal bits were gathered together. Yellow and Brown and Egg Mother lifted up the men’s metal things and carried them to the water where they let them sink. In time, the current would take the metal things down to the lake, into the swamp. There was nothing left but vague red stains in the grass and the brush. And Walks Backward took care of even these minor signs, as was his task.
Soon, there was only the grass again. There were only the things that belonged in the grass and in the trees and at the verge of the great pine and oak forest. There was only the Flock and all with whom they lived.
The danger of the men was gone.
The Flock would bed down for a few days and watch the young ones. It was good to watch the young ones. It felt right to see the future.
THE FLOCK Copyright © 2006 by James Robert Smith
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The birds are terror birds this one in particular is Titanis the last terror bird. Terror birds only enimies are saber toothed cats and wolves.Teror birds are carnovores and eat any type of meat
It was a fun read, my only two real complaints is that the bad guys were paper thin and the end seemed really rushed.
"The Flock" by James Robert Smith is a fiction fantasy thriller set in a Florida. The title of the novel comes from a group of prehistoric giant carnivorous birds known as Phorusrhacids. The flock has survived in the Florida wilderness and is now fighting against being discovered by men. Salutations, FL is a model, ideal and beautiful town owned by the movie studio / conglomerate Berg Bros. The movie studio wants to grow the town, however its neighbors, Marine Colonel Winston Grisham and billionaire Vance Holocomb wants to stop Berg Bros. for their own separate reasons. Enter Ron Riggs, a Fish & Wildlife employee who is called to Salutations to find out why the residents' cats and dogs go missing. Thinking a big snake is the abductor Ron hires his ex-girlfriend Mary to help him out. However, soon they will find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between three titans who will stop at nothing to further their agenda. In the midst of the power struggle they discover The Flock, a group of intelligent, pre-historic birds who have hidden from humans for centuries. "The Flock" by James Robert Smith is a fast paced thriller with wonderful pulp elements peppered in the novel. The characters are fun, even though they are stereotypical with each representing an umbrella group (militants, big business, conservationists), but their interaction is what takes this book to another level. I liked the way Mr. Smith played with his characters' names. The militant is named after the U.S's rightwing / patriotic authors etc. These characters create the engaging drama in the novel, but the giant birds are the true stars. Mr. Smith has created a somewhat believable story of how these terror birds (Titanis walleri) survived unseen and undiscovered in one of the most populous states in the union. The author has given these birds human characteristics which are interesting (although I didn't understand how come the intelligent, non-flying birds with hand instead of wings never created tools). This book was a fast read, fast paced and fun at that. The storytelling is brilliant and the descriptive prose is imaginative and detailed. Some of the chapters are written from the viewpoint of the birds, which I found to be very interesting and helped me understand their way of life. For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com
In a remote part of the Florida rainforest where development has been nonexistent, the Berg Brothers want to open an amusement park in land that is part of the Edmonds Bombing Range. The 450,000 acres are considered environmental treasures so are protected from development. They manage to build Salutations, a town based on American family values. Billionaire environmentalist Vince Holcomb opposes any intrusion into this pristine area while the developers hire a mercenary militia to clear the opposition. In the middle of this wilderness lives the Flock of prehistoric brilliant pre-aviary beings who will fight against any intrusion into their land. Contemporary humans and Pleistocene Era survivors fight to determine which species is the more predatory with Fish and Wildlife Agent Ron Riggs caught in the middle. With a nod to Jurassic Park, The Flock is a terrific action-packed thriller in which the dino-birds and the humans prove adaptable when it comes to operational deployments as each side is viciously aggressive. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, paramilitary, and the Flock as nature), fans will enjoy this strong drama. Ironically The Flock has the stronger moral cause, but that does not prevent humans from claiming economics supersedes animal natural habitats as cynical greed wrapped inside the flag vs. protecting "family" values of home turf lead to a dynamic satirical tale. Harriet Klausner
Berg brothers Studio of Florida is responsible for making quality family films and amusement parks. They built Salutations, ¿the perfect American township¿, abutting over four hundred thousand acres of underdeveloped wilderness. The only neighbors are the ranch of retired Colonel Winston Grisham who uses the land to train militia, and the research center of billionaire Vance Holcomb. --- When Fish and Wildlife employee Ron Riggs is called to Salutations to see what is causing residents dogs and cats to vanish, he is clueless that he will soon be caught in a life and death struggle involving three adversarial groups pondering what to do about THE FLOCK. These creatures are saurian in form and thought long extinct.. They are intelligent and know how to hide from humans, but now are endangered because they have been discovered. --- Anyone who has read Jurassic Park will enjoy the FLOCK, an action-adventure thriller with pulp fiction elements. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, and paramilitary), the fun is observing these ¿faces¿ interact or perhaps better put fight one another as each has an agenda when it comes to dealing with the flock. James Robert Smith provides a fine tale of survival of the fittest. --- Harriet Klausner
This book has everything: interesting characters, mystery, suspense, adventure, science fiction, and a touch of romance. It brings into focus issues relating to our current ecological dilemmas, moral responsibility, group dynamics, domination of species and more. Keeps moving along at a good pace and, once you've finished it, gives you some interesting perspectives to think about.