Friday, August 28, 2015

Booknote: Insylum

Z. Rider, Insylum. Erwin, TN: Dark Ride Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-942234-06-7. (Link to publisher website. As of this time, no Worldcat record available).

Genre: horror fiction
Subgenre: could fall within splatterpunk, horror set in mental asylums, monsters, medical
Format: e-book galley
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I finally finished reading Z. Rider's novel Insylum. I took me a while because I did not find the book to be that engaging. I really wanted to like this; from the description, it sounded like a fun book, but it did not quite get there. For one, the initial "Bookend" scene (the story is framed by two "Bookend" chapters at the beginning and end of the book) in the mental ward sort of gives away the ending. You kind of already know what will happen to at least one of the characters going in. I feel the novel would have worked a bit better if the author had started the tale when the characters were standing in line to enter the asylum-themed horror attraction. Leave then the end "Bookend," and it could have worked better.

The premise of the novel is two longtime friends, Nate and AJ, decide to have one last night of fun before AJ ships out with the military to Afghanistan. There is already tension in the friendship; AJ has been having an affair with Nate's sister Delia, an affair that Nate does not approve of. The fact that AJ comes back from boot camp a bit of a macho jingoistic snob does not help neither, and it makes AJ not very likeable as a character. AJ becomes the guy you want the monsters to get first, the sooner, the better. You could get your wish as a reader since the rumors about the park may just be true, including the one how the last two people to enter on any given time never come back. Yes, Nate and AJ are the last two to enter that night.

Soon, the friends find themselves in a nightmare scenario, facing a series of horrifying scenes They find themselves wondering what is real versus a part of the show. They soon discover the horrors are very real. This all sounds great, but the book takes too long to set things up, and the pacing overall is very slow. Various segments seem repetitive, and after a while, you just want the ride to end. Now, the protagonists want the ride to end because they want to survive. Readers may want it to end because after a while the novel just goes on and on and on. However, there are some effective and horrifying scenes for the horror fan, such as the Cherry Bomb Babe scene and the scene where one of the protagonists is tormented by a very alluring nurse. But such thrills are far between, and most of the narrative does feel a bit tedious after a while.

The ending does leave readers with questions. Some questions are the unsettling kind you get from a horror tale, and this is an effect an author wants to achieve. Others are more the kind of questions folks often ask after watching a movie that was not good enough to get you to suspend disbelief, you know the kind, such as "where is the logic in that?" or "how does that make sense?" This is not something desirable for an author. Overall, I think this novel had a lot of potential, but it fell short. The plot dragged on a bit too long at times. The protagonists were not too likeable, and while you often want to root for the monsters in a horror work, often you want at least one person to survive. Finally, the author almost gave the ending away. In the end, I am a bit ambivalent if I would take a chance on another work by this author. We'll see. This one was just OK for me.

2 out of 5 stars.

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This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

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