Tuesday, August 30, 2016

REVIEW: PATIENT DARKNESS

Death has come to Odols...

INTRODUCTION 

Shutt follows up his supernatural mystery novel, BROODING CITY with a sequel set a few months after the events of this series' debut. I thought the original was a fun, interesting story that did a nice job of introducing the world of the Sleepers, people with supernatural gifts whose moral compass seems to be ambiguous. The story followed Arthur Brennan, a police detective and former member of the shady organization of Sleepers run by a mysterious man named Benjamin, as well as the young Jeremy, whose powers were only just beginning to manifest. The story took a long time to tget going which was one of my main criticisms. It wasn't until the last quarter or so of the book that all the pieces came together and I could feel myself getting into things. I also felt like the parts featuring Jeremy came off as being much stronger than those featuring Arthur and the people in his corner of the world. I just didn't really like the characters on this side of the story all that much. The interactions were definitely quirky, but I think there was some layer of sarcasm coating it all that just didn't resonate well with me. In spite of the slow build up and characters I didn't connect super well with, I was definitely pulled into this mysterious world and the shocking events at the novel's end left me wanting more. Needless to say, I was very excited when the author reached out to me with a copy of his second novel leaving only the gentle request for another review in return.

Please Note:
  • While I'm very appreciative of the author giving me a free copy of his work, this gratitude in no way affects the contents of my review. 
  • As with all of my reviews, I tried to keep this spoiler free, but do note that there ARE some heavy spoilers for BROODING CITY's ending which are referenced due to their importance in the plot of PATIENT DARKNESS.
MY RATING 
4/5 Like it's predecessor, I felt that PATIENT DARKNESS struggles a little with establishing it's premise and really pulling readers into the crux of it's narrative. There are notable improvements made since the first outing, but also some areas in which the book flounders.

CHARACTERS
One of the things I was rather skeptical about when starting this story was the fact that Jeremy is now murdered. This meant that I might be reading a whole book from only Arthur Brennan's perspective. This time around, I still felt hard pressed to truly buy into the relationships between Brennan and characters like Sam, Greg, and Bishop. I will say that I actually liked Sam and Brennan quite a bit more than I did previously. Their characters aren't all that drastically different, I think they might just be a bit more developed at this point and their banter felt a little more authentic to me. Greg is clearly meant to serve as the comedic relief, but I didn't find him to be as clever as it seems like he was meant to be and he doesn't really contribute as much to the story as I would have liked given how important he was to saving Bishop at the end of the last book. I wanted to see a little bit more of his powers and how they evolve, but he's instead mostly seen dorking around on Brennan's couch. Bishop I still don't get at all. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like her or not and I kind of hope that she's not meant to be overly relate-able because she just makes no sense to me at all.

The real standouts here are Benjamin, who readers get to spend a lot more time with, though his true intentions remain a bit of a mystery. Then there's Alex Bruding who really stole the show for me. She serves as that sort of secondary main character in Jeremy's stead. She's not only the daughter of a wealthy medical genius with ties to Leviathan (the main antagonists from the previous book), but also a woman who was born with supernatural gifts. Her powers are by far the most interesting abilities revealed so far. While Brennan's true/false thing, Jeremy's memory absorption, and Greg's non-specific ability to locate people in peril are all cool, there's nothing quite like a good telepath. For Alex, it's really just a sixth sense that  she's always had and uses as naturally as her ability to hear. She's also just way more compelling than Brennan or anyone else. Hers is a world of shady backroom deals and material excess. This makes her a complex and sometimes unpredictable character. The world as she understands it as well as the very nature of her powers changes throughout the course of the story and it was a ton of fun to watch her adapt to those changes.

WORLD/SETTING 
The world continues to be one of the main selling points of this series for me. The seemingly mundane streets of Odals are becoming a lot more interesting as more supernatural characters start to emerge from the woodwork. There aren't any particularly notable locations really. Alex's apartment complex and her father's mansion are certainly distinct and Brennan's cozy apartment is an interesting setting in that it's adjusting to there being two full-time residents living in it now. Most of it is typical mystery-thriller fare with morgues, dormitories, churches, and hospitals thrown in for good measure. Where the real world building takes place is in how the secret underground of the Sleepers is explored in greater detail.


In this installment, the portrayal of the sleepers as monsters of the night is greatly challenged. Lines are blurred with the inclusion of numerous other figures with supernatural powers whom are not affiliated with Benjamin's Sleeper organization. There's a killer on the loose posing a threat to human and superhuman alike. Then there's people who've stayed utterly removed from it all like Alex and her father. If this all sounds a little vague, that's partially because there aren't a ton of concrete revelations delivered to readers about what exactly the Sleepers are and what they want. Instead, there's mostly a lot of doubt thrown in. Small truths like what really happened to Brennan's sister muddle the previously established ideas about how Sleepers are the big bad of this world. There are a lot of little hints dropped about what might actually be going on, but nothing solid as of yet.

PLOT/TONE 
Where this novel ultimately struggles most is in how it makes the deliberate choice not to give too much away. While neither of the entries in this series are particularly lengthy, they're still at full novel length so I did find it slightly off-putting to have no clearer picture of what the actual threat to Odals is than I did at the end of BROODING CITY. While this decision definitely builds up a ton of intrigue for the next book in the series, it also prevents the story from feeling as rewarding as it should. Perhaps if the final conflict was a bit more dragged out or if more was revealed about one of the principal antagonists, then it would have concluded a little stronger. There are still plenty of interesting little twists, but nothing as showstopping as what I was hoping for. This issue is compounded by the fact that I felt like the opening half of the book was very very slow. Shutt spends an awful lot of time reminding us of what happened in the previous book before really allowing his readers to be tossed into the events of this new story.

After the foreboding words delivered by Benjamin during BROODING CITY's Epilogue, I was expecting to get tossed into something far more exciting. I felt like the story kind of gets the reset button hit on it. Between the constant restating/overstating and the fact that there's a brand new mystery for Brennan to solve in somewhat typical contemporary noir fashion, it felt like this just didn't do enough to outdo it's predecessor. There are little things like how Brennan is trying to find love again (and using a sketchy dating site to do it), moments with Benjamin, and just about every chapter with Alex that do standout in my mind as points where the novel felt worthwhile. I ultimately just wanted things to pick up a little sooner than they did and provide me with a little more satisfaction by the end.

CONCLUSION 
PATIENT DARKNESS is a worthy continuation of the story that BROODING CITY began. It greatly deepens the intrigue surrounding the dark Sleeper underbelly and gives readers cause to doubt their previously established ideas about it. A couple of the characters come off a little better than they did previously and those featured in Alex's chapters are all top notch. Most of the interpersonal interactions still didn't resonate with me on Brennan's side of things so I hope to see more from Alex's corner of the world in the next book. With all the hinting and posturing going on, the third book in this series has a very high bar to live up to indeed. If you read and enjoyed BROODING CITY, then this is definitely a book you'll want to pick up. I have a feeling that there are some really awesome things to come with this series and while I was mildly disappointed with the rate at which the narrative has progressed, it seems like Shutt has set all the pieces in place for a tremendous third book.

You can check out more reviews on PATIENT DARKNESS at Goodreads. Kindle and paperback editions of this book can be found on Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment