Author: Peter Clines
Narrator: Ray Porter
Publisher: Permuted Press/Audible Frontiers
Format: Audio (purchased from audible.com)
It’s ironic that the blurb on the cover draws comparison between 14 and the TV show Lost. I hadn’t noticed the blurb when I first listened to the book, but had already wanted to draw a similar comparison, but probably for a different reason.
Lost begins with a plane crashing onto a mysterious island. The individuals who survive the crash don’t know one another, but they band together as they encounter a series of strange occurrences. There are several clues given to the TV viewer as to the nature of the island, but by the third season, I began to fear that most of these clues were nothing but red herrings. Over the next few seasons there were a few interesting character conflicts and moments of tense action, but largely I found myself growing impatient. Many fans suspected the island to be a form of purgatory and the show became a waiting game for the payoff at the end.
14 begins with a man named Nate Tucker moving into a low-rent apartment. He immediately notices some peculiarities including some glowing roaches creeping through his unit with an odd number of legs and a light fixture that makes every light bulb a black light. Nate ends up befriending his neighbors and learns that they too have their own unique oddities. The tenants band together to discover the source of the strange events in their apartment. Soon they discover that some stones are better left unturned.
Seeing the glowing reviews for 14 puts my response to the novel in the minority. One review on Amazon called it the most enjoyable science fiction novel aside from Asimov’s Foundation series and others declare it just plain frickin’ awesome. On a positive note, the novel had an interesting premise and I liked the blend of horror and mystery. The characters, however, were quite flat. They were extremely sociable with one another, but seemingly lacked much of a social life on their own. There are equal numbers of single men and women in the novel and the casual hook-ups that seem to lack credibility.
Clines’ writing is effective in carrying the story along, not lyrical in its presentation, but descriptive nonetheless. There is a lot of dialog in the story, which really speeds the pacing up, compensating for parts of the story that seemed to lag. The audio version was narrated by Ray Porter, who spoke with good characterization and emotion, but his accents were a little ambiguous.
I think my biggest problem with the novel was that I essentially figured out the premise of the novel a quarter of the way through and like Lost, the entire middle portion of the story had me waiting for the characters to catch up. I had no emotional involvement with the romance that develops between Nate and Veek and the self-referencing Scooby-Doo method of crime solving left me wanting. Clines threw in a few subtle pop-culture references that helped keep a minor interest, but generally speaking, the story left me lukewarm.
I don’t think I can recommend this book (unless you are someone who actually thinks the show Lost had a brilliant ending). It’s not that it’s bad — it’s not by any measure — but it didn’t inspire me on frankly any level. If you are looking for an easy horror read with Lovecraftian influences, perhaps this is for you. Judging by the amount of positive reviews, this is a novel that struck a chord with many readers. Unfortunately I was not one of them.