Not Penny's Apartment

14 (Trade Paperback) - Peter Clines
It was always wrong when the pest got so big you could hear them walking.


Now I can't be the only one having goosebumps over the thought of giant roaches making those skittery noise in the kitchen, can I?

Show of hands, who's a fan of LOST?

Okay, who's a fan of LOST because of the Jack-Kate-Sawyer storyline? Or maybe Boone. Remember Boone, Losties?



Yeah, this might not be for you.

On the other hand, if you're a fan of The Dharma Initiative, the giant foot, Penny's boat and tried 4 8 15 16 23 42 in the lottery at one point, then JACKPOT! This might just end up on your favorites shelf.

This book, with the dirty creepy locked door cover (good choice on that one, by the way), did a very good job in driving me against the wall in trying to figure out what brand of crazy is going on half the time. The other half I spent picking my jaw from the floor from the crazy twists, turns and out of this world reveals Peter Clines dragged me into. It's quite tricky to review this book because half the fun is coming into it blind.

For a stretch in the beginning, 14 felt like playing a JJ Abrams-themed video game except instead of being set on an island after a plane crash, happens in a strange apartment with an uncanny mix of people who find themselves being pulled deeper and deeper into investigating the mystery of their abode. One would think that an apartment with "padlocked doors, strange light fixtures and mutant cockroaches" would drive people away but apparently, for the price of 565 dollars a month (inclusive of utilities) people in LA are desperate enough to overlook that if you throw in an amazing view of Hollywood in the deal. 

I rather liked how this story unfolded. How you're given clues (either through Nate or the other tenants' perspectives), diagrams and photos that you get to store in your inventory, to be picked later on in the story to crack a mystery or solve a puzzle which will give you a piece of the bigger puzzle in turn. It was quite fun trying to guess where things were heading, but is infinitely more entertaining when you get the reveal afterwards because, I shit you not, you can't possibly guess what's behind door number 14. It's THAT insane. 

While the mystery gradually grows more and more complex (and it really gets pretty… out there towards the end by way of HP Lovecraft), Clines did very well in making me care for the characters, all things considered. I pretty much liked everyone (especially Tim Farr) and I found the dialogue and the banter between any of them at any given time quite entertaining. 

 

"I've got a thing about heights."
Nate glanced at her. "I thought you had a thing about bugs?"
"I've got more than one thing, it's allowed."
"You were okay up in the loft, said Debbie.
"Because the loft is a nice big space with guard rails," Veek said. "A ladder's a flag pole with delusions of grandeur."


But at the same time there's an underlying melancholy to each of the characters' backstory, made more stark by finding the comforts of friendship among others who are aimlessly searching themselves, which I think balances the disturbing reveals quite nicely. That despite the amount of insanity going on in that building, there are people that are desperate enough for some direction in their lives to be drawn to that chaos than be repelled by it.

Though I'm still pretty bothered by that these people's default reaction to the mutant roaches wasn't KILL KILL KILL but was "hmmm… interesting" instead. (Because seriously, people. Hygiene.)

Yet for all the thrills this book managed to put out, it did fail some on the pacing for me. More often than not, I found myself wishing the characters would just talk to each other and do away with the third person narrative because it can get a little too detailed and winding which does wonders for providing tension but messes with the spatial and temporal order of things in my brain. There's a lot of action and movement in the story but I found myself having to go back a few paragraphs because I couldn't get a clear picture in my head what was going on. 

After turning the last page, it did feel like I've been immersed in the author's universe of strange far too long and certain scenes and mysteries could have been cut short and resolved in a paragraph instead of a chapter. LOST aired for six years, this felt like I've read it for three even if it was just 300-something kindle pages. It was entertaining but I always felt like I was on the brink of getting bored.

But for offering something completely unique and delivering on the "genre-bending" promise, the JJ Abrams fangirl in me can't help but slow clap for a good effort, convincing me enough to add another book from this author in my TBR pile. The perfect blend of talent and crazy is strong in this Peter Clines person, his other book deals with retired superheroes vs zombies... how can ANYONE say no to that?

 

Roger nodded. "Right. Getting stuff done to your brain makes your nose bleed. I read that in a book once."
"You read a book?" said Veek.
"Wait for it…" said Roger. "Annnnd…. fuck you."


ARC provided by Permuted Press thru NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.