The Complex by Brian Keene (Deadite Press)
I was a huge fan of Brian Keene throughout his Leisure Book run. Each release eagerly anticipated delivered a solid story, writing, characters, and Brian’s unabashed straight for the throat style. Even his “out there” stories felt like something very real. Keene has admitted to not feeling “it” over the last few years, but was recently uplifted by an out of the blue mention from Stephen King. As one of those early Keene fans, I wish to thank Mr. King, as well.
THE COMPLEX, while not perfect, definitely has BK back on track and roaring behind the wheel of his Black Death Horrormeister mobile.
We get a great cast of characters (a department Keene has never lacked in) and an odd night surrounding an apartment complex in Red Lion, PA. We are introduced to each character or set of characters through the first batch of chapters, as well as the deranged group of nude people led by the grossly obese figure referred to as Tick-Tock.
There will be blood and LOTS of it.
Never one to shy away from the gore, but never one to just hand it out for the sake of it, Keene delivers his no-holds-barred blitzkrieg of terror and tension with a healthy dose of blood and guts.
I really enjoyed many of the cast in THE COMPLEX. I think the highlight was Keene’s choice of including Stephanie. We get some great insight to her transgendered metamorphosis if you will, and I think he handled the sensitive subject with perfection from start to finish.
I also loved Grady, the Vietnam vet. While he is fleshed out very well, I think he could have had an even bigger impact considering the chaos the cast ends up in, but that’s just me wishing for more. He’s a terrific character who makes a great impact in the story.
I’d be a fool not to mention that The Exit is also in here. If you’ve followed Keene’s short stories, specifically those included in BLOOD ON THE PAGE (the last Keene purchase that I loved and you should buy), you will be all in as soon as he enters the scene. He plays a nice roll in this madness and we’re given a bit more of his background. If I were a betting man, I’d feel good placing money on the fact that there are more The Exit adventures ahead.
My issues with the book were small. I thought it might have been tighter and even more engaging if we’d have had a few less characters, if the focus had been on a handful rather than the two handfuls that are here. Also, the way the story is narrated feels off to me. I had a hard time really feeling like I was in the story. There was something…screenplay-ish? at times? Like someone was telling me the story. I know, that sounds stupid, but it’s hard for me nail it on the head.
Overall, I really enjoyed the majority of this book. I am super happy to see Keene becoming Stella and getting his groove back. I look forward to whatever he does next.
I give THE COMPLEX 4 stars! (Glenn Rolfe)