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review 2016-06-30 19:07
Whispers Review
Whispers - Dean Koontz

Koontz-Alert Checklist (Every Dean Koontz book has at least one of the following ten eleven things.)

1. Blond lead/love interest - Yes
2. Dog(s) - Nope
3. Government conspiracy - Nope
4. Aliens - Nope
5. Serial Killer - Yup (Koontz's staple super-handsome, well-built egomaniacal maniac)
6. Bougainvillea plant - Nope
7. Sodium-vapor streetlight - Kinda (Mercury-vapor this time)
8. Precocious child - Nope
9. Town gone crazy - Nope
10. Psychic(s) - Nope (But there was a mention of second sight)
and introducing the newest Koontz Alert...
11. Incest - Yup.

I'd forgotten how prevalent incest is in Koontz books. Whether it be rape or consensual, incestual sex is a theme throughout Koontz's career. I know he had a traumatic childhood (horribly violent mother), but I am unsure if he was molested. It's none of my business either. I wouldn't be surprised if he was an incest survivor, though.

As for the book itself, I did not hate it. It's not one of my favorites, though, due to all the sex. This one is quite porny, with our MCs clocking in at two and a half sex scenes. And the murders are boring in the sense that I've seen it all before. But it's not a bad book. Classic silly-ass Koontz dialogue made for a cringeworthy conversation or two. But the plot kept me guessing all the way to the end, which contained some truly flesh-crawling scenes. Yuck. Ew. I need fourteen showers.

Of course, this is a Black/Neon era Koontz book, so it was bound to be, at the very least, readable. But I enjoyed it more than I thought possible, considering the concept.

In summation: One of the better early Koontz novels, but you can't really go wrong with the Koontz books with Black/Neon covers, so I don't know why I expected to dislike it. I'll blame Delee, who I buddy read this one with. She said she remembered it being bad, so yeah, I'll blame her. :)

Final Judgment: Quaking with disgust.

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review 2015-03-01 03:21
Elder Sign End Times Trilogy Book One: Arkham
Elder Sign End Times Trilogy Book One: Arkham - Jennifer Stanfield *I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.*

A young adult novel set in a Lovecraftian universe is an unusual combination, but the author makes it work. While the writing is uneven in places, the overall story is solid and the style is engaging. The ending wrapped up the main event but still left me very curious as to what happens next. I am looking forward to reading book two: The Dreamlands. I’m not sure if this book would appeal to every Lovecraft fan. This book is light on cosmic dread and heavy on character relations. Overall I liked it and think it is worth a read.

I'm not a big fan of the star rating system. I would give this book a 3.5, so I rounded it up to a 4.

I’m guessing the intended audience for this book is teenagers who have never read anything by weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted to read this book because I am a fan of HPL. I am not sure what someone who has never read Lovecraft would think of it. Also, I am an adult who loves young-adult fiction series like Harry Potter and The Golden Compass. I can’t speak to what an actual young adult would think of this book.

The author excels in character dialogue. The three main characters, Saeko, Kelsea, and Dell, were all very different and I liked seeing how they each responded to different situations. Saeko was my favorite. I like strong female characters, often a rarity in horror and weird fiction. I hated Kelsea at first but grew to like her. The characters started off with a one-dimensional feel. However, the two female characters progressed and grew over the course of the book. I enjoyed reading about their relationship. Dell was a bit of a bull-headed butt-head from start to finish. Sometime I was incredulous at the choices the characters made, but then I thought, well they are 19, so it makes sense!

I loved the descriptions of the various groups of survivors and some of the technology being used by certain groups. The details of how the world ended were interesting, but the retelling of it was a bit dry. I enjoyed the descriptions of the various creatures that populate the world. I liked the premise; this is the first story I have ever read about what happens after Cthulhu rises.

The Lovecraftian elements of this book are quite pastiche. I did not mind; I have a special place in my heart for Lovecraftian pastiche. However, the story could have benefited from Lovecraft’s techniques of subtly and not-quite-explaining everything. While the overall storyline was good and had some surprises, the Lovecraftian plot elements were obvious, and at times over-explained. Anyone who has read Lovecraft would know what was coming. I did enjoy revisiting some of the Lovecraft stories the author pulled from: The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Lurking Fear, Nyarlathotep, Call of Cthulhu, and The Unnameable. Some aspects are a flat out retelling of the original stories. I found the author’s own ideas interesting enough to stand on their own without retelling certain Lovecraftian plot points, but I enjoyed the winks to HPL nonetheless.

The writing was uneven at times. The combat scenes felt rushed, some felt like more of a bland report of the events. Some of the scenes could have evoked feelings of horror, as the events were terrible, but they did not. Perhaps the author wanted to tone down the horror for a younger audience. I think there could be some improvement in this area.

The main characters frequently had their beliefs challenged and their prejudices exposed; we see the main characters analyze their falsely held ideas in light of events they have to face. Growing up, taking on responsibility, and adjusting to change are also themes approached in this tale. Post-apocalyptic settings are great for exploring the best and the worst of human nature.

I couldn’t tell which way the author’s viewpoints leaned; often the situations in the book had no obvious right or wrong choices. Overall, I would say a message of the book would be that assumptions and prejudice can blind us to the big picture.

The characters have to deal with life or death situations and wrestle with the moral complications. Not ever having had to face a life and death situation myself; it reminded me of a time when my kids and I read a choose-your-own-adventure book about surviving the Titanic. My son incredulously pointed out that any time you chose to help someone else, you died and the only way to survive was by being selfish. This goes against what we are taught about being kind and helping others at all costs. Most stories show the hero risking their life against unbeatable odds to save others and succeeding. But how realistic is that? In a world where everything comes crashing around you, sometimes you need to make tough choices. Is it OK to do something you don’t agree with if it will benefit your community? Is it OK to leave others to die if it means you survive?

This book was amateurish at points, excellent at others, but overall it is a good effort for a first novel. I found this Lovecraftian YA fiction strangely appealing. Sometimes I get bored with a story and start skimming. I did not do that at all in this book. I am looking forward to reading book 2.
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