Permuted Press, 2012, 350 pages
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....
Peter Clines's superhero/zombie mash-ups were fun, if very obviously commercial genre product. Which is not a bad thing if you are looking for brain candy that would look good on the big screen.
In 14, he gets on the Cthulhu train. He doesn't even try to hide his inspiration: the characters themselves start talking about Lovecraft.
So you have a diverse cast of Los Angelenos living in an old apartment building in which everyone is willing to ignore the occasional creepiness and green cockroaches because the rent is stupid cheap.
Nate is just another wage slave working in a dead-end job, but when he moves in, he actually starts taking an interest in the strange mysteries of the place, like the rental agent who turns out to be an actress, the light bulbs that shine blacklight, the absence of a connection to the city power grid, the skewed geometry, etc.
He slowly drags his neighbors into the mystery. Half the book is about the characters, from Veek, the minimum-wage worker who has high-powered computing clusters in her apartment, to Xela, the nudist who dyes her hair in day-glow colors with matching carpet and drapes, to Tim, the real-life Soldier of Fortune character. And Andrew, the creepy Bible freak. What is a horror story without a creepy Bible freak?
Once the Scoobies start nosing around, things go Lovecraftian in a hurry. And that should pretty much tell you all you need to know about the story and whether or not you're interested.
Verdict: 14 is not Hugo-worthy, but it's a nice little Call of Cthulhu adventure in a Los Angeles apartment building. There is a little romance, a little death, a little SAN loss. The big reveals make sense, given the necessary suspension of disbelief, and Peter Clines has created a consistent world in need of saving.
Also by Peter Clines: My reviews of Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots.
My complete list of book reviews.