Monday, January 25, 2016

The Lost Level: A Review

Brian Keene is best known for being a writer of graphic horror and though I am not a fan of splatterpunk, I am an avid reader of Keene because he writes his characters with great poignancy, presenting them as fully fleshed human beings instead of existing for the sheer purpose of being nothing but monster chow. In addition, Keene has created an elaborate mythos he has named the Labyrinth that ties all his novels and stories together. As a result, his universe is not only huge, but is just as elaborate and fascinating as the Cthulhu Mythos first dreamed up by the Old Gentleman from Providence.

In The Lost Level, Keene tries his hand at another genre and his foray in pulp fiction results in a satisfying read that entertains and is worth another reading.

Aaron Pace is a young student of the occult who gains the ability to travel the Labyrinth that connects all parallel universes and individual worlds within those universes. His fascination and exploration unfortunately traps him in an oubliette, a world with only one entrance and no exit. Known as the Lost Level, it serves as the dumping grounds of all the parallel universes that connect to the Labyrinth. People and objects that have mysteriously disappeared in our world and others end up in The Lost Level, a world of such danger that survival is only remotely possible. In his wanderings, Aaron gathers two companions, a barbarian princess and a creature that is mostly an anthropomorphic cat with a prehensile tail. In their adventures, they encounter all sorts of wonders and horrors such as piranha birds, giant amoebas, dinosaurs, large metal killer robots and other challenges that allow Keene to let loose his full range of imagination.

My only disappointment is, and I say this with great respect, is that Keene needs an editor. In chapter 12, Aaron waxes eloquent on women's liberation that detracts from the story and appears to be nothing more than the author's attempt to use his narrative as a pulpit. Also, in a world of such horror with danger at every corner, when we are introduced to "the soft valley" the sheer silliness of its existence may have seemed cute, but so nonsensical that it acted as a huge interruption to the narrative. An editor would also have steered Keene to a more satisfying ending other than the sheer info dump that is the final chapter.

Other than that, as well as some other minor hiccups that an editor would have caught, Keene's foray into adventure pulp fiction is entertaining enough that, for this reviewer, I will make sure I pick up the next two books in the trilogy.

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