Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ironically Titled

I finished the book Abandon, by Blake Crouch.  I kind of wish I hadn't.

(Got a free copy from Netgalley; this is definitely an honest review.)

I'm cramming this post out because I want to put this book behind me.  It's got a great premise that totally pulled me in: a hundred and some-odd years ago, a small mining town in Colorado became a ghost town.  Every resident disappeared, leaving behind no bodies, no clues, no indication of what had happened.  In 2009, some hikers are exploring the town.  We get the two parallel stories--Christmas in 1896, and the modern expedition.

When it comes to characters, we're starting off kind of weak.  In the 1890s, of course, we know everyone's going to disappear.  And by the time things really start happening, it becomes clear that that's not misleading--they're just all going to die.  The fact that it's dragged out and a lot of people die horribly in a lot of horrible ways, well, that's the part that makes it kind of like watching a slasher movie.  Sometimes there's blood and guts and sometimes horror and torture.  It's pretty disturbing, without a lot of psychological payoff.

In the modern parts, we get something similar.  It's straight out of a horror movie, between twists and double crosses and that moment of safety when OH NO THAT'S THE KILLER and random coincidences.  And even though you have nominally likeable characters--Abigail, our heroine, who's a reporter trying to connect with her estranged father while writing an article about the ghost hunters who are investigating the town; the ghost hunters themselves, Jane and Emmett, who seem well-intended and maybe to know some things; even Laurence, who's trying to reconnect with his daughter--there is zero character development.

Abigail doesn't start out meek and find her courage, or start out cocky and find her humility, or start out a flatlander and find her mountainous spirit.  Technically I guess she starts out comfortable and finds herself able to walk with lots of injuries, but Laura Dern's limping run across Jurassic Park to trip the circuit breaker stands out in my mind way more than the novel that I was reading literally an hour ago.

And let's talk about the details.  Abigail is a reporter, but during the two day hike to the town of Abandon, she asks no questions of her subjects.  They don't discuss their backgrounds, she doesn't chat them up.  The group talks a bit about their trip generally, but it's not till they've known each other for three days that she asks, say, "how did you get started in paranormal photography?"  She's a crappy reporter.

Really, I didn't like any of these characters.  Of course, tons of them turn out to be evil, or at least nasty, so that's deserved.  But it gave me nothing to hang my hat on.  I kind of liked a couple of the mining town residents, in an "interesting character" kind of way, but lots of them turned out evil, too.

I think I'm gonna keep thinking of things that bugged me about this book for ages.  I should probably just let it go.  The world is full of other great books to read.

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