14 by Peter Clines is a Weird House Horror thriller with an intriguing twist.
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 love a good creepy house story. On reading this I was hoping for ghosts (I know that ghost stories are out of fashion in horror at the moment but I still love them) but what I got was just as good.
The Kavach building is almost too good to be true at that low rent with all amenities included. And so it’s a bit weird. That’s nothing, right? Except the Kavach building is really weird and is hiding a secret of apocalyptic proportions.
It is really, really hard to talk about what I loved about this book without spoiling the twist, though anybody with a wide enough knowledge of the genre should see it coming. Suffice it to see that while I figured out where this was going quite quickly, that never spoiled my enjoyment of the book. It is probably safe to say that if you enjoy books that have apocalyptic elements and nods towards most of the horror and sci-fi greats (as well as an outright acknowledgement of its similarities to a Scooby-Doo episode) you will enjoy this.
The writing is pretty standard stuff- workmanlike, but not bland. Clines tells the story well with no confusing sentences or pretentious attempts towards a poetic style the book doesn’t need, but it would have been nice to have a bit more flair in the prose. It wasn’t quite ‘they did this. Then they did this other thing’ but at times of low tension it could seem this way. I have no real complaints or compliments about the prose. I did notice how adept Clines is at slowly building tension, but I also noticed that everyone shrugs and rolls their eyes a lot, which seems like it would get tiring. There is also a character whose dialogue is written phonetically. This is a thing I have a personal dislike for, as I find it intrusive and irritating.
The story holds together well, though it relies on character stupidity a little too often for my tastes (really, characters? With all the self-aware horror nods you didn’t notice the obvious villain? I could tell by page 96) and like most stories of this type it is held together more by tense writing than by internal logic or consistency. I did enjoy the way that many real-world facts and historical events were tied together with some of our more revered fictional creations.
Overall an enjoyable – if forgettable -work of otherworldly horror. I probably won’t reread it, but I don’t regret the hours of my life spent in Cline’s imagination.
- Interview with Peter Clines, author of Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots (boingboing.net)
- Peter Clines’ ‘Ex-Heroes’ On Sale Tomorrow (February 26, 2013), Pre-Order Now and Save $5! (horrornovelreviews.com)