A Slashing Disappointment
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been here. I would love to say that I was off having scads of fun and doing terribly interesting, irreverent things, like protesting injustice, and making mad love with hunky Marines. However, I’m honest about things that count, so I must sadly admit there is no such amazing reason. I planned to review a book for you and had some trouble getting through it. Part of that is due to the book, and you’ll hear all about that in good time. I would not be fair if I didn’t state that I was ill for part of this time, and was unable to read. If I had been able to go straight through, I might have had a better opinion of it. I doubt it, but I want to be fair. When I’d rather watch commercials than read my book, I am about to be disappointed.
The book is The Vivisectionist, by Ike Hamill. Mr. Hamill summarizes his book thus. “The boys have the perfect summer planned. They’ll camp out in the backyard for their last vacation before high school. There’s only one problem — even though they’re just a hundred feet from the safety of the house, they’re being hunted by a serial killer.
Join Jack, Ben, and Stephen as they strap on their backpacks and go out looking for adventure. The woods behind Jack’s house contain endless trails to explore, and the boys have weeks to investigate them all. Their neighborhood finally seems at peace again, now that the man who snatched the kid from down the street has been caught. But there’s still danger in those woods, and the boys are about to stumble into it…”
Combined with the title, this description hooked me. On the face of it, it’s true. As we’ve said previously, horror is inherently irreverent, and the use of children as protagonists is risky in horror. Many people seem to feel that only children are interested in reading about children. I’ve disputed that assertion. I did not dislike this book because the main characters are kids. That’s one of the things that drew me.
My issues with the book are two-fold. The first one is pretty simple. Mr. Hamill should have employed a better copy editor. As I have yet to delve into the formatting arena, I am prepared to accept a few errors in an e-book. Formatting is reported to be difficult, and I am not looking forward to it! However, there are errors which have no possible connection to formatting, or even typographical errors. They are misused words, and they are a pet peeve of mine. I’ll give you the example that almost made me put the book down in irritation. If an author does not know the difference between a taut rope and a lesson taught in school, then he should certainly employ someone who does know, or at the very least have a beta reader who does know. A Gen X school teacher would be favorite. I know I’m not perfect, but if you are going to be a writer, words are your tools and you need to keep them sharp and in order.
Even if your tools are sharp and in order, if you use them to build a crooked house, no one is going to live there. No one lives in this book, either. All characters are two dimensional, as if they’d been ordered from Central Casting as Teenaged Boy 1, 2, and 3, or Mom and Dad. The story in itself was somewhat interesting, but poorly realized. The boys’ humorous banter occasionally rings true, but is mostly contrived and not amusing. Additionally, it’s as if Mr. Hamill had never heard the lesson “Show, don’t tell.” When you are describing a house with mazes and booby traps, you should be painting word pictures. With few exceptions, this does not happen. The ending “twist” is indeed twisted, but is foreshadowed clumsily, and everything after the twist is rushed, and feels slapped on to the whole like a crooked bumper sticker.
On the Imaqulotta Scale, I rate this book as Purgatorial.