Published by Atria Books
Published on the 4th December 2018
Trigger Warnings: Domestic Abuse, Alcohol Addiction, Rape
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Atria Books, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Billy is a recovering alcoholic. Him and his wife, Emily, live in poverty, drowning under the debts that Billy has built up over the years. Things weren’t always like this though. There was a time when Billy knew that he’d be a billionaire, that everyone would know his name, and that he would never want for anything in life. Back when he was just out of college, Billy and his friend Shawn stayed in a rundown groundskeeper’s cottage the shared the grounds of Eagle Mansion, Shawn’s family’s heritage. It was here that the idea for Eagle Logic, and something more advanced, came to light. But when Emily came into the picture, ultimately leaving the grounds with Billy, with the promise that if anything ever came of Eagle Logic, he would get his share, that’s when things took a turn for the worst. Now Shawn is back, he has a prototype of a programme set up in the refurbished Eagle Mansion, but there’s some bugs, and Billy is the only person he knows that can possibly get rid of them. Rekindling some semblance of their past friendship, Shawn pleads his case, with Billy accepting. However, the bugs in the machine seem to be something more than just glitches, a ghost in the machine, perhaps?
I love a good horror story. I love a good ghost story. This had the promise of both, with a bit of a techie twist thrown in, I loved the draw of that difference. Sure, we’ve had movies, aptly named “The ghost in the machine”, but it’s still a fresh sort of idea to me. I normally read traditionally haunting stories, so this was a pleasant jaunt into a bit of a different area than normal, for me.
Straight of the bat, this story is a slow burner. And by slow burner, I mean, the opening of the story is Billy meeting Shawn at his office to discuss the opportunity that Shawn has for him, this isn’t the slow part. There is probably a whole chapter that just outlines how much Billy hates Shawn, and what he is fantasising of doing to him, namely, punch him in the face. I’m talking PAGES of this. So while this was nearly a deal breaker for me, I hate DNFing a book so early on in reading it, so I pushed through, and I’m glad that I did. Just be prepared for a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff that somehow feels necessary after the fact, if that makes sense? So once I’d gotten through the chapter or two of how much Billy hates Shawn, I had a real sense for who Billy was as a person as well as a crystal clear view on his and Shawn’s past relationship and where they now stood. Hence the ‘unnecessary necessary’ comment. There was a fair amount of content that I felt could have been edited out to make the story move faster and have a better flow, but I feel like small nuances would have been lost, such as the crystal clear view of Billy and Shawn’s past relationship. I think another round of editing and some tough love from said editor, would have worked wonders for the story.
I love a creepy story, as you’ve probably worked out from my opening comments above, this was also a very slow burn in that department too. The parts that were creepy, we really well written and they gave me definite creep factor, it was the lack of these that drove my rating down. While there’s small instances of said ‘haunting’ happening from around 40% in, they are few and far between, the main chunk of ‘haunting’ happens in the last 20% of the book. So it’s a massive build up, to a not terribly climactic near ending, that we end up with. Up until about 50% of the way through the book, I was honestly wondering what I was going to rate this book at, because I just didn’t know how I felt about it. After finishing it, I did enjoy the story, I just wish there was more creepy and less blathering on about things I guess.
The characters were well written, and we get a definite sense of who each person is and their personalities which is great. Billy annoyed me a lot. Look, I can understand how life shattering it would be to have your deserved billions ripped out from under you after an old friend renegs on a promise, but come on. What did he honestly think would happen when he left with the man’s girlfriend? As one character we meet says “it’s always about a girl, isn’t it?” or at least, something along that line anyway. Emily was a good character, and Shawn was written well, though I wanted to slap him a lot of the time. I was actually curious about the events surrounding Emily’s twin nieces and was surprised when they actually got some screen time, that was good.
One thing I couldn’t help noticing throughout this read was the similarities to Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s one of my favourite movies (the 4 hour long TV mini-movie version, NOT the Kubrick version), and the book was just as fantastic. I noticed a lot of similarities. Recovering alcoholic agreeing to stay at a place that has the possibility of being snowed in and therefore inaccessible to outside help – check; a flash scene where the character is running through a haunted old mansion being chased by their alcoholic father who is screaming at him to “take his medicine” – check; characters questioning their own mental faculties and sanity because an outside source is whispering in their ears – check. These were the main parallels that I came across. It didn’t ruin the book for me, it was just an observation. I feel like the ‘take your medicine’ line was a bit on the nose as that is literally what the father in the shining is screaming at Danny when he’s chasing him down the hallway, but, it worked I guess.
The programme itself was written well as a character. The ‘haunting’ was written exceptionally well I just wish that there was more of that in the actual story rather than a huge build up to a kind of satisfying ending. I’d happily give this author another go, I rather enjoyed the writing, I just wish there was a bit harsher editing going on with it. If you like a slow burn horror story that has a technological twist, give this one a go, you may like it.