14

There are so many things to say about Peter Clines’ 14. And I honestly don’t even know where to begin. It’s a strange melting pot of mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy – a little bit of everything, coming together to work remarkably well.

Book cover for 14, by Peter Clines

Book cover for 14, by Peter Clines

Concept
14 by Peter Clines follows Nate, a normal sort of guy, with a normal sort of life. No girlfriend, a dead-end job, a boss he hates. Plus, I mean, he lives in LA, and no, he does not work in film, thank you very much. But, he doesn’t make much money either, so he needs a new, cheap place to live.  And he hears, by word of mouth at some party, about a building with relatively nice apartments, and cheap rent. So, he jumps on it.

The new building, a brownstone called the Kavach Building, seems pretty nice when he goes to look at it, but starts noticing some weird stuff pretty much immediately after moving in. A door with no knob, a door with a knob that is seriously padlocked, fancy elevators that have never seemed to have been functional, some mutant glow in the dark cockroaches, and a neighbor across the hall, whose apartment seems to have a completely different layout than his. Weird.

Things get weirder and weirder as he starts exploring the building, making friends with neighbors, and hearing about all the weird stuff they’ve got going on in their apartments. Eventually the tenants get together and launch a full-scale investigation, with terrifying and disastrous results.

Exposition
The story is written in the 3rd person limited perspective, which is pretty common. You follow Nate as his curiosity about his new building blossoms into a bit of an obsession, and you discover the mysteries of the Kavach building along with him and his neighbors.

The Good
The writing is very detailed, and the story is excellent. This was a book where I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. I didn’t even try to guess. It was all over the place, but in a very good way. Just when you’d start to feel like you were figuring out what was going on, it would shift gears, and turn your world upside-down.  There’s a huge cast of characters with unique personalities, and people do things that you don’t normally see them do in literature – like eat, drink, go to the bathroom. They also seem to have pretty realistic interactions.

Clines does a good job of suspending disbelief, so parts that seem a little ridiculous in retrospect were fairly thrilling at the time. In addition, the atmosphere of suspense, horror, and excitement are very palpable.

The Bad
The writing sometimes isn’t that great. Pretty much every time someone drinks anything, they’re described as “taking a pull” off of their beer, or their soda, or that canteen of water. Every time anyone talks about getting anything, they say the same thing. “How about we order a pizza or three?” “I’ll come by around 4 with a case of beer or three.” Neither are really that big of a deal, but they’re a symptom of something greater, something more mediocre about the writing. There was a time where both Chris and I both said to each other “Have you noticed that they keep saying that?”
Many of the characters  come off a little flat as well. They all have their own “plot twists” in their back stories, some are more apparent, some are more implicit, and some are entirely unknown until flatly stated. Most of them, however, come across as a little contrived.

There also seems to be a fair bit of trend jumping in this book, which I found to be enjoyable at first, because they’re all trends that I have at least some interest in, but it seemed to get a little out of hand – all these little things sorta ruined my suspension of disbelief. Again, I thought all the individual elements were pretty cool, but when they came together, my response was sorta… “…Seriously?”

Final Thoughts
14 is a good book. A very good book, with a great story that constantly keeps you guessing about what happens next. It has a distinct, diverse, albeit somewhat flat cast of characters, who remain entertaining whether their sitting on the rooftop sharing a few beers, or rooting around in the dirty basement of an old apartment complex. Despite some minor issues with the writing, I still enjoyed this book immensly.

Grade
This was a tough one, but after some deliberation, I’ve settled on a “B” for 14. The many strengths of this book outweighed the issues I had with the characters and the couple of flaws with the writing.

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