Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Bad Glass by Richard E. Gropp

Bad Glass is the winner of Del Rey's Suvudu writing contest, and Richard E. Gropp's first novel. The novel is horror, with some science fiction elements. The book's premise was interesting to me as well as some of the author blurbs, especially the Caitlin Kiernan one on the book's cover. The book's blurb is as follows:

Something has happened in Spokane. The military has evacuated the city and locked it down. Even so, disturbing rumors and images seep out, finding their way onto the Internet, spreading curiosity, skepticism, and panic. For what they show is—or should be—impossible: strange creatures that cannot exist, sudden disappearances that violate the laws of physics, human bodies fused with inanimate objects, trapped yet still half alive. . . .

Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, sneaks into the quarantined city in search of fame. What he finds will change him in unimaginable ways. Hooking up with a group of outcasts led by a beautiful young woman named Taylor, Dean embarks on a journey into the heart of a mystery whose philosophical implications are as terrifying as its physical manifestations. Even as he falls in love with Taylor—a woman as damaged and seductive as the city itself—his already tenuous hold on reality starts to come loose. Or perhaps it is Spokane’s grip on the world that is coming undone.

Now, caught up in a web of interlacing secrets and betrayals, Dean, Taylor, and their friends must make their way through this ever-shifting maze of a city, a city that is actively hunting them down, herding them toward a shocking destiny.

I was rather intrigued by the whole premise, and one of the author's blurbs compared the book to the show LOST. I admit to having had a love/hate relationship with that show, as the first few seasons had my full attention, but the show later wilted for me and ended on a totally unsatisfactory note. 

When it comes to Bad Glass, I have conflicting feelings. On one hand I really dig the premise, and the several mysteries that come up throughout the book kept me turning the pages. On the other hand, the books flaws keep me from lavishing the praise. Most of the characters are dull and uninspired. The narrator, Dean, is whiny, often to the point of annoying. The horrors themselves can be pretty solid, but at times the author is too descriptive. There is no subtlety in his approach to each horrifying encounter, and the over descriptiveness can be a bit of a dread killer for me. There was also one moment in the book, a graphic homosexual sex scene featuring the protagonist (who is chasing after a girl the entire book) that seemed absurdly out of place. It was jarring, completely random and felt like it was added in simply to give a jolt to readers. I would like to clear up that it's not the content of the scene that bothered me, but the fact that it didn't fit, and was there just to be there.

The biggest flaw with the novel, and in my opinion the trait it most shares with the show LOST, is that the end is quite a let down. I can really dig a story, especially horror, that's left open ended, but when it's a novel length work as opposed to a short story or novella, I, like many readers, like to have a bit more payoff. By looking at other reviews it seems this shortcoming of the novel is one that many readers make note of, but by the end of the novel the majority of mysteries are left unanswered. Ending the book in such a manner will be the cause of much frustration by readers. 

While I enjoyed reading about the frayed reality of the fictional Spokane, I hate to say that I read on not out of any investment in the characters, but simply because I wanted to see how these many mysteries unraveled. In that regard, I was disappointed. Maybe Gropp will revisit his Spokane, or one of the other places mentioned at the end of the novel. I may even check it out, but hopefully he will learn from the shortcomings of his first book, because as evident in this one he sure didn't learn a thing from LOST.

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