Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#9 Within The Shadows

Within the Shadows by Brandon Massey is…wow…how do I even start? I guess you can let me start with some of the praise found on the back of the book.

“Spellbinding. Keeps you turning the pages to see what will happen next.” -Zane…bestselling author of Addicted.

“Massey creates effective suspense, some harrowing scenes, and characters you actually care about.” -Fangoria

How would I classify those comments? As complete and utter bullshit? “Spellbinding?” Really? Towards the end of the book (at 444 pages) he manages to slow the pace down so much that it is fucking ridiculous, he practically shoots himself in
the foot. “Characters you actually care about?” I wished they had all fucking died…only to find one of them does. I picked the book up because it boasted Local Author on the cover, I wish I hadn’t. I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what the story is about, then I will get into why I hate it.

Andrew is a writer on the brink of becoming famous. One day, while traveling with his estranged father he comes across an old mansion after they get in a car wreck. Cue the weird shit. Andrew has a friend, Carmen, it is obvious they both love each other and want to hump like rabbits but don’t. Andrew’s best friend is Eric. After the accident weird nightmares start happening to his dad, Raymond, connected to the mansion that he knows from his past. Andrew goes out on a date with Mika who ends up becoming a stalker superwoman. Throw in some crazy cats, superpowers, psychic abilities, maybe some immortality, talking with ghosts, some shit that is meant to be scary but isn’t and you have the book. Now, why did I hate it?

Right off the bat I noticed that the dialogue was entirely wrong. They are educated, and speak educated, and yet the dialogue comes out forced and unnatural. Then there is the one instance in the book where for some reason the dialogue changes entirely.
"Why are you tripping? You haven't even met her. She's cool, seriously."
"I'm only looking out for you, bro. There are some serious gold diggers out there. I deal with it on the regular, and I'm married."
This after dialogue that sounds like this.
“You two going to finally get together?”
“We’re just friends, same as always. It’s not going anywhere else.”
“But you want it to.”
“Not at the risk of ruining our friendship.”
By the way, both of those came from a conversation between Andrew and Eric. From there I immediately noticed the sentences. Now when I write I write very simple. I write to where anyone can understand it. However, and to my knowledge, I try not to be cliché or formulaic. Massey is anything but. For the most part he uses Dick and Jane sentences with childish descriptions. "He was acutely aware of the closeness of her; the sweet sexiness of her perfume; the gentleness of her touch; the lushness of her cleavage, accentuated by the gold cross she wore on her necklace." You would think, at times, that Massey is writing a cheap romance novel (and why do sluts always wear crosses? I need to look out for that). It would actually work as a cheap romance novel. What with getting descriptions of the main characters constant erection, getting head under restaurant tables, and being stroked. However, you also get shit like this. "Carmen's perfume clung to his shirt, stirred a pleasurable heat in his loins. He definitely was going to need that cold shower before hitting the sack." Now…it may just be me but why, if a guy lives by himself, would he need to take a cold shower before bed instead of just jerking off. I mean later in the story he goes on to describe what he thinks is a wet dream in wonderful detail. Does the character like wet dreams? I’ve never had a wet dream in my life. However, I suppose that could be the case, what with taking a cold shower before bed to ease his tension. I have one more main complaint with the novel. This.
"He dragged his hand down his face." pg 145
"He dragged his hand down his face." pg 199
"He dragged his hand down his sweaty face." pg 248
"Andrew dragged his hand down his face." pg 267
And those are only the ones I remembered to mark down as I was going through. Later he tries to compare this to a trait that Andrew shares with his father but really…it just got fucking annoying. Ok, how many times can the fucker run his hand down his face before he starts peeling his own flesh off? Is he a crackhead? Does he have some nervous tick? Ohhh, that’s it? Well in that case let me cut your fucking hand off. Or instead…quit fucking telling us every time he does it. So what other shitastic elements of the novel are there?

The first real encounter he has with the ghost goes something like this. "The plate turned over...slices of bread and turkey and cheese stacked themselves...the chips slid onto the side of the plate...the glass floated upright, half-full with ice cubes." WOW. That was…impressive. *golf clap* No really, way to actually introduce the ghost. Oh and the way you have them communicate through the computer, that wasn’t totally reminiscent of Ghost at all. Then, not only does he tell us that the main character is now communicating with a ghost, but he spells it out for us. "The television was on. The movie playing struck him as comically ironic: The Sixth Sense." Really. I didn’t think that was a funny addition, I sure as hell didn’t think it was necessary. Why even put that in there? Could Massey not think of something better? He even references Ghostbusters. Let’s not forget that when he realizes the house is the center of it all, and shit, that we have this fantastic revelation. "It was constructed on land sacred to the Creek Indians, who used to occupy the area. The mansion actually was built on one of their old ceremonial centers, the pascova..." I’m going to do something I rarely do in my reviews, if ever. *HeadDesk* Really? You’re just going to flat out rip off Poltergeist? Or maybe another ohhhh 70 fucking things that deal with houses on Indian burial grounds thing? The originality here astounds me.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, let me give you moments in stupidity. Through the main course of the book the characters are plagued by three cats…like kung fu attack kitties. "The feline stared at her. It didn't move. "He's a Russian Blue," she said.” Wow…did he do research? You made the attack cats Russian Blues? They are probably some of the friendliest cats on the fucking planet. No really. Go look up the personality of a Russian Blue. My roomie had one, that cat was the friendliest fucking thing. If strangers came over my cat would hide, Queenie would climb up into your lap and assault your face with purring. After having his house burned down by Mika, Andrew runs off with Carmen to hide. So…what do they do? "They had dinner on the deck. Hamburgers, chicken breasts, potato salad, and baked beans. They sipped icey glasses of sweet tea..." Mind you, they know Mika is some superhuman bitch, they’ve both been attacked by her and her crazy fucking cats, they just ran away after his fucking house burned down, and they settle down for a dinner like that? Really? That just makes no sense to me what-so-ever. I’m just going to chill casually right chere and eat me some good country food. Then, when Mika is on her way…"She reflected on chapters of her life; different times. divided like scenes in a novel. She thought about the beginning." This crazy fucking woman (who has shown no remorse, guilt, or responsibility for her actions) is going to give us a detailed account of what has happened to her just so we can get the back-story. Because throughout the whole novel she has totally shown emotion that would make us want to be sympathetic. Remember in Candyman when you finally find out what happens to him? Yeah, it’s nothing like that. The whole time you realize it is just an excuse for the writer to give us the back-story because he couldn’t figure out any other way. Let’s see, what else. During the fight between Mika and Carmen, which you knew was bound to happen, Mika is wearing a black catsuit. Yep, for no fucking reason. Hasn’t worn anything like that the rest of the fucking book, in fact, she has appeared dressed pretty normal for the most part unless she was attempting to look sexier then she apparently already is. A catsuit? I got the impression that Mr. Massey really just wants to see this as a movie, with someone like Beyonce in a catsuit. By the way, during that fight, Massey uses the word “bitch” nine times in two pages. YES! I almost forgot about this one. Right in the middle of the fight between Carmen and Mika, while his father is being chased by Walter (a very large super powered butler) this happens, "He noticed that the trunk of the Rolls Royce's had popped open. Something was inside...Dazed, temporarily forgetting everything else, he walked off the deck to look closer." That’s right, your dad is being attacked, your girlfriend/friend/lover is being attacked, and you go off to investigate something. Again, *HeadDesk* What are some other things that bothered me?

Massey shouldn’t have switched to Eric’s perspective in Chapter 42. It was the first time he’d ever switched to Eric (the rest of the book bounced between Andrew and Raymond) and the only thing he accomplished was slowing down the pace. He also slows down the pace during the climax by switching back and forth between Andrew and Raymond. Raymond having the action and Andrew the “story” of understanding. What he accomplished was getting you built up about what was going on and then slapping you in the face and telling you to wait. It got old really quick. What else? Text speak. “CAN'T RUN FROM R LOVE I WON'T LET U.” That from a woman who is supposed to be old…like really old…and yet she talks like a stuck up, rich, modern girl. Another thing that bothered me is they always drank tea, sometimes fancy tea like peppermint and shit. Don’t ask me why that bothered me, I don’t know, it bothered me like Massey telling us Carmen was a vegetarian about three hundred times. There wasn’t a single unattractive person, all the women were amazing. Along those lines there were no “poor” people. Everyone talked about their multiple rooms, their large houses, their high paying jobs, and their 60” TVs. AND, you get shit like this, "Dad calmly thrust his arm forward and clamped his hand over her throat...Dad lifted her in the air, her legs kicking...Dad didn't lose his chokehold on her throat." Wow, way to go dad, I completely forget you had another name…I think it was Raymond. Don’t even get me started on the ending that is really, really, too happy/cheesy for words.

Dean Koontz is 65, Clive Barker is 58, Anne Rice is 69, Peter Straub is 67, Norman Partridge is 52, and Stephen King is 65. If Brandon Massey, at 37, is supposed to be the future of horror, someone please shoot me right now. I tried, I really did. I’ve read several local authors, in fact when I see a book by a local author I tend to pick it up. Doing that I have read several fantastic books, Within The Shadows is not one of those. On his website he says that people have said he is the “Black Stephen King,” whoever said that I personally want to slap in the face. He has his elements like Stephen King, switching between main characters to show different perspectives as the story progresses. However, his descriptions are no where near as detailed, his dialogue is weak sauce, and the overall plot of his story is unoriginal and forced. Will I read anymore of his books, not likely. Do I think he will ever become popular? God I hope not.

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