I was so excited when I opened the Orbit promotional emailer and saw that Craig DiLouie had another book out. I really, really need to read more of his work. The first one I read was called One of Us and it blew me away. If you haven’t read One of Us, do yourself a favor and pick it up — but be fairly warned, it’s tragic. I almost never physically read anymore, and so I don’t often get to these early releases. I made an exception for this author.
I had really no idea what I was getting into since I didn’t read the synopsis, or any promotional stuff, or read any reviews. I went in cold.
It’s a ghost story!
You could probably argue there are two main POVs and several side POVs that rounded out a pretty wide cast of characters. This follows Matt and his wife Claire, who are a paranormal investigators who co-host a reality show called Fade to Black. Way back in Matt’s childhood he remembered having an overly-vivid “imaginary friend” who his mom took him to see psychiatrists about since he was so convinced she was real. Fast forward to real life and he’s convinced ghosts are real and he wants to expose them to the world genuinely. He has a deep passion for this topic and he’s completely genuine on his show, he’s not a scam artist and that’s refreshing. His wife does NOT believe in this shit, lol. She’s a science minded person who wants to debunk ghosts and provide evidence behind supposedly supernatural phenomena.
Well, Episode Thirteen of the show is supposed to take place at Foundation House. Matt feels very confident that this will be the episode that changes their lives. He really has a strong gut feeling that this will be the place they finally find evidence of an afterlife. He has kicked himself hard for not asking his imaginary friend more about the afterlife, and hasn’t had a chance since then.
So, this kinda starts off slow, setting up an atmosphere and really trying to get the reader invested in the characters. One of the reasons that One of Us has stuck with me for years, and years, after many hundreds of books is the characters and the raw emotion that book sparked from me. This book did not quite hit those marks for me, unfortunately. This is not to say they are bad, I thought they were well developed and well done characters. One of Us was just such an impactful book for me that it’s hard to reach there again. However, it did set up really great and complex relationships between this cast on the paranormal show. It’s not just him and his wife, there’s the camera guy, the hot girl actor for show ratings, and an ex cop who’s there to kinda beat his chest a bit — but he too genuinely believes in ghosts and demons. Each of these characters gets a POV with varying levels of page time.
The way this book is written is also very different. It’s possible people who read crime thrillers, or horror books may encounter this more often, but this is like a book version of a documentary film show. Like, it reads as if it’s a movie script at times, and there are blog entries, and journal entries, and text message exchanges between characters that make up entire chapters. I had not ever seen it done like this in a SFF book and it took me a long while to adjust. I didn’t really become accustomed to it until like 35% through the book. I have to say honestly, that the author’s name is what kept me going for the first 10-15%, I may have set it down because it was kind of disorienting and I felt like I couldn’t get a good handle on what was going on. That said I did adjust and once I did, I was able to speed through the rest of this book. I read this whole thing in just one evening.
I found Claire to be the most interesting off the bat. This is probably partly bias liking a science minded woman who doesn’t believe in ghosts, but also because she has genuine internal conflict from the start, do I be horrible to myself and continue in a career I don’t want, or do I be “horrible” to my husband and the other cast for quitting? She knows she’s half the show and why they have the ratings because of the chemistry of her and her husband and it would jeopardize the show to quit. but those are her choices, stay miserable or quit. I just like that conundrum because it’s very every day, and yet this is about ghosts and horror. My least favorite character was Kevin. I didn’t give a single shit about Kevin start to finish. He just irritated me the whole time. He’s an abrasive ex Philly cop and just hits a lot of stereotypes.
Overall, the payoff took a while to come, but I was satisfied when it did. I would definitely recommend this to people who want to try something different, and I’d encourage people to keep with it if they’re feeling a little lost at first. It comes together and it really works by the end.
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 12/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 81/100