I’m going to try a little something new on the blerg this week: a book review.
Bear in mind, I’m no professional (no shit), but I felt that Mountain Home really deserved a full write up beyond a starred review. Though, I know those help too!
Moving forward, here’s how these reviews will work (might even apply it to my beer and whiskey rants).
- Focus will be on story, characters and composition (dialogue, structure, etc)
- I ain’t spilling shit about the plot unless I absolutely, positively have to. Otherwise, it’s a spoiler-free zone.
- I hate ratings. Despise them. For books, though, since we’re talking a purchase, let’s go with this system: Buy, Read, Pass. I’ll explain more at the final verdict.
Last point: Bracken, sorry if this review ends up sucking. Thanks for unknowingly being my review guinea pig!
Ah, yeah, one last, last point. I bought Mountain Home with my own money on my own Kindle. As a fan of Bracken MacLeod’s short story work (check out his piece, Ciudad De Los Niños, in the last Shotgun Honey Collection: Reloaded (Both Barrels) it’s fucking great!)
So, on with the show.
Here’s the blurb for Mountain Home:
Lyn works at an isolated roadside diner. When a retired combat veteran stages an assault there her world is turned upside down. Surviving the sniper’s bullets is only the beginning of Lyn’s nightmare. Navigating hostilities, she establishes herself as the disputed leader of a diverse group of people that are at odds with the situation and each other. Will she – or anyone else – survive the attack?
Oooh, suspensey, huh?
Well, MacLeod’s debut novel literally starts with a bang, then a splatter – possibly a ‘splort’. It’s a powerful and effective way to pull the reader in. It worked on me, I was ready to commit to the story within a couple of pages. I’d compare the story to a solid mix of old school Twilight Zone in regards to the ensemble of characters mixed with the disturbing imagery seen in so many of the splatterpunk greats, Ketchum is definitely evoked a few times.
What moves the plot is character. MacLeod manages to take story beats that feel familiar and breathe a little new life into them with great characters. We’ve met folks like this before, but it’s a credit to the character work that we can use the familiarity to gain attachment. There’s the plucky heroine, the troubled cop, the scumbag pain in the ass, the junior scumbag, and a handful of supporting characters. Standard fare, right?
Well, it’s the little details that pull them out of the gutter a lot of other writers would leave them. The relationship between father and son expressed in action, the loss of a spouse not doing enough to halt someone’s bias, the plucky heroine realizing that “pluck” won’t take her anywhere but a hearse.
These beats and details transform what would be banal into something engaging and emotional. This is character work I can envy. Never found myself skipping passages or wondering when we would get to the next big moment. I enjoyed taking it all in.
I especially enjoyed the piece’s flawed and incredibly sympathetic antagonist. Like I said, no spoilers, but MacLeod’s sniper is fantastic. An original and heartbreaking take on the crazed killer with no options. Trust me, the sniper’s story moments are the high points of the entire novel.
MacLeod’s structure is also fine. He injects the right amount of detail into the gore and does a great job establishing setting and location. With the manic pace of the piece, I had little trouble understanding where people were at any given time. Dialogue was strong as well, even when it became a little melodramatic. Those moments were when I envisioned this story in black and white, possibly with Jack Klugman playing a role.
Only complaint was with multiple moments where we were presented with internal dialogue. I felt it happened a little too often, but I understand the third person and multiple jumps in POV did dictate it to assure the reader wouldn’t be lost. It also comes down to my own personal tastes, so I don’t believe it’s a massive hindrance. Your mileage may vary.
I also would have liked a little more time with the owner of the roadside diner, but understood why the decision was made. I’d say it was a good decision to limit their screen time.
Overall, an impressive and enjoyable debut!
Final verdict: Buy it in digital or print. I’ve got a half a mind to nab the physical copy. It deserves shelf space.
You can buy Mountain Home on Amazon by clicking on the thumbnail to the left or HERE.
I’ll be continuing this series on a weekly basis (hopefully). More often than not, the book choice will be random, but it WILL be something independent or from a newer author/s. Guys like Barker or King are already well taken care of.