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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi

Apartment 16

Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill In short: This is a horror novel cranked to the max, kind of an embodiment of so many things that horror novels are. This means that it gets some things really, really right (so creepy!) and others really, really wrong (cardboard characterization! crappy handling of women!).

Because it is delightfully, delightfully creepy, albeit with an intriguing idea but utterly forgettable characters. The author totally wins at atmosphere and at one of the things I love a great deal about horror novels in particular: making a place a character as much as any of the people. Nevill succeeds on two counts here, in making both the apartment (and the apartment building) and London itself characters. London here is as creepy, claustrophobic, and oppressive as the Evil Apartment itself.

But this novel trips and falls on its face with its characters, both in general and in particular with the female character(s), and-unfortunately like so many horror novels-with its ultimate Big Bad. Beginning with my second gripe, I'll say it again: horror authors, it's still true - nine times out of ten, the more you explain, the less scary you get. Fabulous climactic Facing Of The Horror; eyerolling source of horror.

But, oh, the characters. Yes, yes, another nine times out of ten, I'm not expecting decent Lady Characterization from horror novels, but this one made me particularly frustrated because the heroine was *almost* good. However, the whiff of Manic Pixie Dream Girl plus the (quasi-inevitable, sigh) way in which she transforms from the focus of her own story and adventure to Important Mostly In How The Men Want Her Hot Bod, and well. ::headdesk::

Not that the guys come off all that much better, unfortunately. This is once again a horror novel in which the horror is the real star of the show. The slow evilization of Our (anti) Hero is creepy, but that's because the things that happen are creepy, not because I felt any particular attachment to this guy or horror in his slow degradation. He doesn't have to be a saint before he goes evil; I just have to give a rat's ass about him in order to get that dose of pathos as well as horror.

Still, for as much as I rag on the characters, it was a mostly-enjoyable read for me. I do love me some good atmospheric, creeping horror in which I can viscerally imagine myself in a situation and practically smell the musty, old, claustrophobic, creeping evil.