Sunday, July 29, 2012

14 (A Book Review)

My Rating: 7/10

Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches.

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment.  And Tim’s.  And Veek’s.

Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything...

I just finished this in audiobook form (I listen to tons of audiobooks during my long days in my woodworking shop). It was loads of fun. It is by Peter Clines, an author whose work I've previously read in "Ex-Heroes", a very straightforward genre mashup of superheroes and zombies (After the zombie apocalypse, the world's masked avenger types round up the survivors in LA and attempt to defend them inside a fortified compound. This was every bit as entertaining and as dumb as it sounds).

14 was a whole different kettle of fish, and it's as hard to review as Triangle was, because I don't want to give away what made it so cool. It's like a combination of Lost and Lovecraft, with a mystery/horror/SF bent.   The hero is a young slacker type who works as a data entry temp and is stuck in that "Waiting for his life to start" phase (Weren't we all, once?  Let's just call it "Age 21-26", eh?), when he finds a new apartment that is too good to be true - Incredibly cheap rent, included utilities, and a nice building. After moving in, however, he begins to notice oddities - The elevator is always in the basement, the building has no power lines going to it, his kitchen light fixture turns any bulb put into it into a black light, and his neighbors are a collection of oddities. Tim is a former book publisher with a skill range from James Bond, there's a young actress who spends her time topless on the roof, and computer nerd Veek is a cranky geekette with an apartment so crammed with high powered PC gear that she could run 4Chan in her spare time.

The book is about the deepening mystery as these disparate characters begin to cooperate, Scooby Doo fashion, to delve into the mysteries and secrets of their strange building.   I went into it expecting either a haunted apartment story or an evil landlord story, and instead got the Phantasm effect - That feeling I had way back when first watching Phantasm, that I was completely expecting the story about a funeral home to be a ghost or vampire movie and instead got weird yellow-blooded aliens and fingers turning into crazy bugs and evil jawas from another dimension. 14 is an ongoing succesion of unexpected twists and discoveries and weirdness that goes from Mystery Gang fun to sanity-shattering, universe-threatening horror. The characters are simple but it's well written and has a lot of clever, natural-sounding dialog. Worth reading.

Another opinion!