Urban Gothic by Brian Keene (Book Review)
Plot: When their car broke down in a dangerous neighborhood of the inner city, Kerri and her friends thought they would find shelter in the old dark row house. They thought it was abandoned. They thought they would be safe there until morning. They were wrong on all counts. The residents of the row house live in the cellar and rarely come out in the light of day. They’re far worse than anything on the streets outside. And they don’t like intruders. Before the sun comes up, Kerri and her friends will fight for their very lives… though death is only part of their nightmare.
My Review: I’d been coming across Brian Keene novels for awhile on various websites when I decided to pick this one up. Apparently there is just a small circle of well known horror authors (Edward Lee, Stephen King, Richard Laymon, etc) and Brian is one of them. From the looks of it (this is my first novel by Keene), most of his books deal with zombies and end of the world scenarios. But not this one. Quite frankly I had no idea what this one would be about other then what was said on the back of the book. I was hoping it was just your normal serial killer who’s creeping around in a creepy old abandoned house…or maybe even ghosts, but I was VERY wrong.
This one starts off with a group of six white teenagers driving home from a hip hop concert. When one of them decides to take a quick stop off for some drugs they find themselves lost and of course their car breaks down in a rough neighborhood. A group of black teenagers approach them on the street spooking them and they all run off into a creepy “abandoned” old house at the end of the road. Little do they know a group of killers are lurking around the building and the group of kids who “chased” them were really trying to help them…
The action starts off really quickly. Within the first 50 pages two of the teens are already dead. Killed by blows with a huge hammer. The description of the killer at first reminded me of Pyramidhead from the Silent Hill video games, but later when described more fully, that was completely off. The thing I love about books is I don’t quite like the description I can envision whatever I‘d like, so I could appreciate it more, and I was hoping I’d be able to do that with this book. The description of the killer was a mutant human basically. Which I was “okay” with for the most part, but then it turned out that there were hordes of them living in the basement. All VERY deformed. It wasn’t something I could just ignore any longer, and by 150 pages in the book I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to continue reading. I mean, from some descriptions of some of the creatures it seemed like that should be aliens or something. There were even mutant “babies” that chased, or rather slithered around, after the teenagers. I just thought it was utterly stupid. But I was pretty far into the book at that point. I didn’t want to give up on it.
With the kills happening so quickly, I wondered how the book could possibly go on for another 250 pages. To fill up more pages, Keene decided to have stories outside of the house happening as well. We have an elderly couple who sees the teenagers run inside the house, and we have the group of teens who were going to help the other teens with their broken car. They decide to stick around and see what happens and call the police from the older couple’s home. Because of the bad neighborhood, the police (even though they were called) aren’t likely to show up, as they often don‘t in that area. The group take it upon themselves – with the help of the older man – to go into the house and help if they can. They all know they were told to stay away from the house growing up, but nobody knows why other then those who go in never come out so they have no idea who or what they are up against.
Meanwhile, we also have some guy who decides to break into the house and see what sort of stuff he can steal and sell to make a living. His part in the book felt utterly usless. There were enough characters, his part was not needed. We also of course have the teens who first entered the house get hacked up, lost and split up within the huge house’s basement and series of tunnels. So really the story goes back and forth between all these characters. What annoyed me most was by the halfway mark all the teens are split up and its all pretty much about them wondering around in the dark trying to hide. It wasn’t all that interesting or entertaining because overall I just didn’t care about hordes of mutants living in sewers/basements and it was really hard for me to picture in my head them stumbling around in the dark.
These days every horror movie has to give a reason for why cell phones don’t work, or people don’t come to the rescue, or why people are out in the middle of nowhere. What I found interesting about this book is that it takes place in a very bad neighborhood, neighbors don’t really want to get involved and turn their heads the other way, and even the police don’t want to show up when called. Sadly, I’m sure places like this exist. So that was sort of based on truth, but the rest of the book was just overly unrealistic…which sometimes is okay, but I went into this thinking it would be something completely different. Lets not forget that their cell phones don’t have a signal in the house, we aren’t sure why, that’s never explained but once or twice the characters wonder how the mutants are blocking it. Good question.
By the last 3rd of the book (last 100 pages) I was just overly ready to be done with the book that it took me more then a week to pick it up again. A book that had started off as quite a fast read for me became too cruddy to pick back up. But, being that far into it, I couldn’t not finish it.
I’ll tell you now, nothing is explained about these creatures. At one point something is slightly hinted at, if there was an explanation in there somewhere I was supposed to figure out I guess I just didn’t think about it because it was around the time I stopped caring about the book. But one of the characters comes across some items and she even thinks to herself that she can’t wrap her head around any sort of explanation like a horror movie would try to do.
If you’re a gore hound, you’ll probably like this book, there are some gory details here and there, some graphic details about the mutants having sex with the corpses and brains, and other body parts.. Some parts were downright gross, pus dripping from dicks and whatnot….so if your into that sort of gore, and mutants you might enjoy this one. But if your like me and don’t care about mutants and especially ones that talk (think Wrong Turn 2), then I recommend you skip this one.
Overall: I started reading others reviews on the book around the last 3rd of the book and found that most people who are fans of Keene’s say that this is one of his worst books to date and to try a different one first. Wish I had seen that before I picked it up! Heck, I wish I had known it had to do with mutants in the first place! So, while overall I didn’t really enjoy the book, I enjoyed the authors writing style and his sense of horror and gruesomeness. I’ll definitely pick up one of his other books in the future.