This book’s blurb got me really excited. An oil exploration rig, deep sea exploration and some kind of monster that has been living under the sea floor. Sounds like the basis for a great horror-thriller, doesn’t it? Well, what I actually got was a quite disappointing novel that could hardly be more run-of-the-mill. The plot seems plucked straight from an action blockbuster movie and I still don’t know what has been living under the ocean floor.
It feels very unimaginative and dull to read, as everything is basically what you would expect. There is just too little creativity shown in this book. With no unique ideas or creative twists, everything is as it seems, and the tension only rises after half of the book has been spent on unimportant details.
Who would I recommend this to? Honestly, if you want a book that’s like a movie but you read it, then go ahead. Also, if you like gore in your books, you might find some joy in this one. Other than that, not really a great read.
I’ll rate this book a (generous) 5/10. With an interesting premise, this book might make for a great read. Lackluster execution combined with a dull monster to fight, The Black is a book you don’t particularly would want to read.
Paul Elard Cooley an American fiction writer. His book The Black has won the Parsec award for best speculative fiction. Paul E. Cooley is 48 years old.
Pubisher: Severed Press
Date of release: 19. September 2014
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Let me be clear. This book was a disappointment and there are a few reasons for this. I will get into this a little later on in this review but first let’s talk about the plot which actually sounds very promising.
There’s this exploration rig, the Leaguer, and they found a huge oil reservoir. Upon examining the oil, Shawna, a biologist and chemist (I think?) finds out that the oil is very pure, too pure. It also doesn’t really behave like oil. Simultaneously Catfish sends a robot down to the ocean floor to get a probe of a tube worm. Surprise, surprise, the tube worm doesn’t behave like a tube worm. So then JP get bitten by the tube worm and soon after dies, without anyone noticing at first.
Then, this black mass (they call it the black, so let’s just do the same here) starts to roam around the rig and kill people. Well, not really kill, more like devour them. And that’s also where my problems with this book start.
The black. I feel like the black is one of the most uncreative monsters, ever. It feels so incredibly standard and boring. The black with its tentacles that shoot out and grab people, tentacles that can morph into an eye, is exactly what you would expect from a mediocre horror blockbuster.
It is also described in the same way every time. It is always sizzling and oozing and the smell of burnt flesh is permanent. Because this is so dull, I was never quite able to really identify with the characters and their fate and I really struggled to sympathize with the people who died.
Now, another problem I have, is with Paul E. Cooley’s style of writing, especially when creating dialogue. The people in his books have names (duh…), but sometime he uses their first names and sometimes their last names and sometimes he uses both within the same conversation. This could look something like this:
“Hello”, Calhoun said.
“How are you”, answered Vraebel. Thomas already hated the man and he knew that Martin felt the same way.
“I’m fine, how about you”, asked Thomas. Vraebel didn’t answer and ignored Calhoun.
As you can see, this is incredibly frustrating and confusing to read – especially when I just starting out. It threw me off because I was never quite sure who was speaking at the moment. Paul E. Cooley continues with this throughout the book and as you progress, you will learn who is who, but it is really hard to understand if you just started reading.
Another thing that adds to that is the book’s insanely slow start. It felt like at least have the book (bear in mind the book is only 248 pages long) was spent on establishing the scenery and characters rather than drive the plot. This made me read really slowly, and therefore it took me a while before I got to the “exciting” part.
And even this exciting part wasn’t all that exciting, to be honest. Yes, there were some thrills, but as I already described, it felt rather dull and unimaginative.
Same goes for the end. They pour as many explosives down into the ocean floor as they can. Then they blow everything up. I don’t really know what happened to the black or the thing under the ocean floor, but both seem to have been eliminated. The end as a whole feels very unclear and vague to me. It isn’t really described in the book. We are supposed to feel with Shawna who fell unconscious and doesn’t really remember what happened.
To be fair, the pictures this created in my head would work really well in a movie. Shawna only half conscious with everything exploding around her would make for an exciting movie scene. However, this is a book and different rules apply.
To end this review on a positive note, I liked that Paul E. Cooley had the idea to come up with two parallel stories (The Black: Outbreak and The Black: Arrival). This seems clever to me because the reader gets to experience a different point of view about the whole story. Yet, I don’t know if I’ll read them, since I didn’t take great enjoyment out of the first instalment.
So, who’s this book for? To be honest, if you like your gore and a stock-standard horror/thriller, by all means, go for it. For everyone who is looking for something a little more refined, maybe try something else.