Saturday, January 19, 2013

14 by Peter Clines

When main character, Nate finds a great apartment in Los Angeles for a ridiculously low monthly rent, he and I both should have known something screwy was going on. But to be fair, I bought 14 by Peter Clines (pictured below) fully aware that it was sci-fi.

Soon after moving in Nate meets his neighbors over beers on the rooftop terrace, and they began comparing notes about the many strange characteristics of their apartment building, like no electrical wires coming into the building, padlocked doors, weird floor plans and iridescent green cockroaches. As they bond (the tenants not the cockroaches) they form a sort of Scoobey Doo vigilante group to snoop around, and what starts out as an adventure, slowly (very slowly) turns dark.

Lamentably, the reader has to slog through some meaningless narrative to get to the fun stuff. Of course Clines was building tension, but there were a couple of annoying plot lines that lent nothing to the story, like Nate's boss repeatedly droning on and on about Nate's lack of productivity at work.   

And then there was the clich├ęd cast of characters. Nate, the endearing screw-up, his smarter than he girlfriend, the macho dude who knows way too many spy tactics, the bawl-baby woman, the wimpy guy who finds his strength in the end, etc.

My main complaint, however, is that 14 cruises along as a pretty good mystery, then crescendos to a laughable apocalyptic fantasy. As one reviewer observed, “You have to drink the Kool-Aid for this plot to work.” Another reviewer said he felt like the lemming at the bottom of the cliff, as did I, but then I have to give the author his due for keeping us on board in spite of a few dragging plot lines, predictable characters, and the comical antagonists.

Read it? Sure, 14 is a fun break from high-end literature. 

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