BOOK REVIEW: 14 by Peter Clines
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young guy without direction in life moves into an old apartment and gathers other tenants to investigate oddities where they live.
PROS: Strong setup for interest in characters and mystery.
CONS: Characters and mystery become less interesting by 40% mark; the ending.
BOTTOM LINE: The beginning established an interesting cast of characters and doubly so for their discoveries of this ancient building and its secrets, but the piecing together of the puzzle lost my interest and the climax was not as surprising or engaging as I hoped after liking the beginning.
The front cover blurb about this being a “riveting apocalyptic mystery in the style of LOST” piqued my interest. The first forty percent flew by as I felt the blurb was correct in making the comparison to the mind-bending adventure of the TV show, Lost. The mystery behind the apartment building and a cast of interesting characters created a significant interest in what was to come as well as a nostalgia for the magical elements that addicted so many to Lost. One big difference, and failure on the part of 14, was that there is barely an emotional attachment to any of the characters. The main character is likable enough to want him to succeed, but he’s nothing special. The rest are pretty two dimensional, from the artist who sunbathes in the nude, to the girl with glasses and a secret side job. You aren’t sure which one the main character will end up with, but like all the other interesting setup elements, the completion of this thread isn’t very satisfying.
Another disappointment is that the middle section became boring. There are numbers on the walls and for some reason the main character can’t track down the building’s history. So, they measure the rooms, tear down the walls, send queries to the government, and all of that work does little more than show what they would have found out anyway. I came to this story wanting to find magic in the mundane, but I mostly just found mundane… and then unbelievably weird. There are some cool discoveries, which I won’t spoil, but on the whole, the post-40% bored me.
Likewise, the ending did not payoff with nearly as much excitement as the setting up did in the beginning. The romantic subplots, the revelation of the secret behind the building’s origin, and the execution of the fight against evil were all lackluster. For all the joking the characters did about them acting out roles from Scooby-Doo, the story did feel like a transformation from a real life ghost story, a la Lost, to the hokey cartoon where the mask is pulled off the villain, a la Scooby. The author tried to show research that would connect the fantastical he was about to show with real world events like Tesla and Lovecraft, but once the Other became real, I just shrugged my shoulders and skimmed to the end. Two and a half stars for a mostly fun read you may or may not enjoy enough to finish.
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