I couldn't wait to read this book. It is a Night Worms book we aren't planning to read until the spring, but I said screw that, since it felt like a perfect wintertime book. A haunted technological mansion in the snow? Sign me up.
This book is heavily influenced by The Shining, and I do mean heavily. I don't think it's a bad thing to look up to your writing idols and get inspiration from them. Everyone does it. Hell, even King steals stuff, like Shardik the Bear: yep, he stole that straight-up from Richard Adams. The difference with great writers is that they make that material their own, they turn it into something new that can pay homage to their influences while being entirely something out of their own imagination.
This book doesn't go there. In fact, it doesn't really go anywhere.
At the beginning, I was completely hooked. It sounds amazing and I was sold: a techno-mansion, an old feud betweens friends (one who got crazy rich and one who got the girl), and the chance to fix everything if only they can get this AI personal assistant who is in the walls of the mansion to work properly (think Siri, but smarter because she learns).
But the book is so slow getting off the ground. It stutters, it falls back to square one, over and over again. It is so repetitive. The book is already long to begin with. How many times do you need to explain the same stuff about when they were in the cabin just starting out? How many times do we need to rehash this love triangle, the alcoholism, the rich vs. poor, etc., before actually diving in to the meat of the story itself? I don't want to be told about all that crap, I want to experience it.
And it took so long to get the the mansion. For being called The Mansion I felt that the book could have spent more time at the place itself. The only times I felt invested in the book were when it was getting into the creepy haunted bits and pieces of the place itself, and those were never fully explored.
And the technological parts: I get that it would be boring to hear about all the zeros and ones, but I felt like the author hadn't thought through (or just didn't have any clue) about what would go into creating something like what these characters were attempting to invent. He could have taken a few notes from Michael Crichton's books; he's just brilliant at incorporating science and technology into his writing in a way that feels plausible, interesting, and feeds the story rather than slowing it down.
And I can't help but to mention how one character, the assistant to the rich guy, just made me plain uncomfortable. The extent of her characterization is that she is black and as beautiful as a Victoria's Secret model, so people underestimate how smart she is. Barf. Seriously? I wonder what'll happen to her. . .
Speaking of the women in general, this book doesn't give them a whole lot to do. I'm pretty sure it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, but even if it does, the main point of the main girl character is that the two guys are both in love with her and that's why she's there. Her whole life revolves around them and even things that could be her own (writing a novel) turn out to be about them.
This book is just disappointing on so many levels. I have only read the first Hatching book, and I really enjoyed that one. This does not live up to the standard of pulse-racing, high-octane thriller/horror that I remember with that book. It is unoriginal, uninspired, and just plain boring.
Things this book steals from The Shining: (perhaps slight spoilers)
What a waste.
My thanks to Atria/Emily Bestler Books for sending the Night Worms copies of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.