14 (Book Review)
by Peter Clines
Mystery / Horror / Sci-Fi
4 / 5 Stars
I listened to this novel as an audiobook from Audible. It was my first audiobook, and I was very happy with the experience and will listen to another. I heard of this book, and the audiobook, from Writing in Obscurity’s review and recommendation (thank you).
14 is perfect for those who enjoy a mixed-genre story with light horror and sci-fi elements, is heavy on mystery, and features a cast of fun characters. Nate, an underachiever in a dead-end, low-paying job, lands a sweet, cheap apartment in an old building. He notices some strange things but tries to ignore them. Out of boredom or a subconscious need to do something with his life, he starts researching the building. His questions and discoveries eventually bring in some other tenants, and the group unearth something that has been hidden for over a century.
I’m a big fan of horror that has a reason behind it. I want to know the reason why someone is being haunted or the ghost’s origin story. I much prefer a well-wrought mystery to being scared. This isn’t a haunting, and it’s not too scary, but there is a mystery afoot in the Kavach building, and the way the mystery unfolds is very enjoyable. I found that the slowness at which this occurred made sense - Nate and everyone else aren’t in danger, in fact, they have to tread lightly for fear they’ll lose their sweet deal of an apartment. I liked this aspect because it allowed the characters to go from strangers to friends. While I didn’t love any of them to pieces, I did care about their fates.
Nate was a smart choice as the main protagonist, as he’s a kind of hum-drum “everyman” nice guy who just needs some impetus to step up. Some of the other characters almost tread into stereotypes (Xela, the artist who sunbathes nude on the roof, for example), but they are given enough backstory and divergence from their prescribed role that they no longer become that. For example, Debbie, the goody-goody "girly-girl", is also a brilliant scientist who helps decipher a lot of the clues. Everyone has skills that are valuable to solving the mystery (and, later, escaping danger). As someone who enjoys slow-burn romance, the small sub-plot was cute and the build-up was slow enough to build tension but not too slow it seemed unrealistic. The only character I disliked, Andrew, was fun to despise. And I don’t think we were supposed to like Mandy, but at the same time, we do feel sorry for her. The star of the story is the Kavach building itself. The way each room holds a new piece of the mystery was fun. I’m pretty sure if I had been reading the book, rather than listening to it, I wouldn’t have been able to put it down.
The mystery itself was easy to follow and fun to try and predict. I know enough about Lovecraftian horror that I started piecing it together about halfway through, but nothing about it was obvious from the get-go. There were also some other allusions to horror/sci-fi movies (such as Aliens), that were dropped here and there. A couple of them went over my head, but I smiled at the ones I caught.
The ending did drag out a little too long and the pacing was a bit off, but I did enjoy that section too, with its homage to the most famous being of Lovecraftian lore.
Overall, I really enjoyed this and would listen to another book by this author and narrator again.