Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CBR6 #16: Dead Sea by Tim Curran

I really wanted to like this book. It seems like it should be right up my alley: maritime disaster? Check. Horror? Check. Survival on the high seas and the idea that the other survivors are the real danger? Check and check.

And yet...

The premise was great -- a ship taking a construction crew to South American travels into a thick, mysterious fog and emerges in a place that is very clearly not right. The fog seems almost alive -- and very unfriendly. Plus, it's full of creatures that shouldn't exist, and ships that aren't where they belong.

There were some great characters, too. The first mate, the cook, the undercover corporate spy -- all smart, interesting characters with solid voices. There was a good, love-to-hate human antagonist as well as the unknown fog monster. There was even a tough, capable female character. I liked the parts where characters discovered the history of some of the ships that had ended up in this place. All that was great.

The problem was that the story dragged significantly in the middle. Although I understood the desire to ratchet up the tension by leaving the characters adrift, I got awfully frustrated after a while watching the same situation play out repeatedly in each lifeboat. Something scary would happen, but then it would just go back to waiting and watching, and I would pray again that the separate groups would finally find one another so that something of interest could happen. Once they did combine, the ending rocketed on to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, but by then I was barely managing to keep interested.

I think this book might have benefitted from some solid editing. The story was rich and interesting, the characters had real potential, and there were some genuine scares that kept me up a night or two. There was just too MUCH of everything.

CBR6 #15: Joyland by Stephen King

Although I love his massive epics like IT and The Stand, I think where Stephen King shines the most is in his shorter fiction. At 283 pages, Joyland is comparatively short, but it allows the story to unfold in a more focused way, and avoids some of the bloated tangents that--though I love them--can make the longer works drag a little.

Devon Jones gets his heart broken, and on a whim decides to leave Maine spend the summer of his 21st year working at a small amusement park in the south called Joyland. As he learns the ways of the carnies--figuring how how to speak their lingo, keep the "rubes" in their places, "wear the fur," and "sell fun"--he also discovers the dark secret of the park--the unsolved murder of a young woman in the haunted house years before, who rumors say haunts the ride. Devon spends the summer saving lives and waiting for the predictions of the park's local psychic to come true. When fall comes, a chill will fall across Joyland, and Devon will be lucky if can survive it.

This was a first person story, and the character of Devon had a wonderful, clear voice. He was wry, self-deprecating, and interesting, and his narration moved the plot along. The side characters were interesting and fairly well fleshed-out, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen to them. The ending was also much better than I expected, it being a King book and all ;)

I'd recommend this to any King fan, and even those who may think they don't like his work should try it. It's more murder mystery/coming-of-age tale than a horror book, despite the occasional ghostly visit or psychic flash.

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out www.cannonballread.com for more great book reviews.

CBR6 #14: The Drought by Patricia Fulton

Yes, I am in fact alive. Some things in my life went totally pear-shaped there for a while, but it has not stopped me from reading. (I can't say it's done anything for my motivation to write about what I'm reading, but that's sort of a lingering issue anyway.)

Jared Riley knows something is wrong in his hometown of Junction, Texas. His mother's headaches are getting worse, one of his good friends disappeared down a drainpipe, and the temperature seems to have taken on a mind of its own, bent on destroying the town and everyone in it. People are losing their minds, and strange things are happening. It's up to a small group of concerned citizens to figure out what's happening and try to stop it before it's too late.

I liked this book a lot. The characters all felt reasonably realistic, and I was interested in their stories and anxious to find out what would happen to them (though in some cases the answer would be "nothing good.") The plot moved along, though I felt there was a little drag in the middle while the characters were trying to put all the pieces together. I really wanted them to hurry up and combine forces.

On the whole, this was a good read that utilized atmosphere, description, and suspense really effectively, while letting the personalities of the characters shine through and do the heavy lifting of the story. I'll definitely check out any further works from this author!

Also, if you like book reviews, you should check out The Cannonball Read blog, which is full of much better reviews than my sad little output here.