They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn't even know why she killed—or whether she'll do it again.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander's, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who's not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.
My last two Giving me The Creeps books totally got dragged out, one because it was HUGE, the other because it just wasn't doing it for me. Although I love Wassermans writing, and the Book of Blood and Shadow is one of my favorites, The Waking Dark was the book that I just couldn't get into.
I have three key issues with the book. First off, Wasserman is a die-hard Stephen King fan, and has tweeted and talked about how she has always wanted to write a true horror novel King style. The hubby is also a big King fan and so I've read a smattering of his work, the whole Dark Tower series, The Stand, Tommyknockers, The Talisman and The Black House (which he co-wrote with Peter Straub), and on writing (you know, just to mix it up). I, unfortunately, am not King's biggest fan. I don't mind his books, and actually I found 90% of the Stand really compelling, but for the most part I find I'm just never rooting for his characters, I don't hate them, but I don't love them either. If I'm ambivalent about your characters then guaranteed I will not be that into your story, because why care about the plot if I don't really care about those involved? I found The Waking Dark to be so very King like in how it's written, large cast of characters, small town, my complete ambivalence to the characters for the most part and of course the rather brutal break down of society, that instead of feeling like an homage (which is sort of what I expected) it came away feeling like a copy cat. As if it was some kind of challenge to pen something that could be mistaken for his work. Although it's impressive that she could do his style so well, I read Wasserman for her style, and that just wasn't really apparent to me for most of the book, which I count as a big loss.
Second of all, I found the pacing of the book, which again was very King like, very slow. My attention was constantly being stolen by everything else in my life because I was bored by the dragging pace. In a lot of ways I think that's a very traditional horror thing, the slow build, but I just loose interest if it doesn't hit some kind of deeply intriguing notes to keep stringing me along.
Finally my absolute biggest pet peeve was the way Wasserman drew out the characters. Although there were reveals thrown in about each of them, through out the plot of the book, I found I really didn't care about any of them until they came together in the end. Before that they were too stale and one dimensional in a lot of ways, possibly because each of them was so alone and holding so many secrets, though since the reader knew those secrets I feel like I should have been growing attached to them far earlier.
In the end this story only captured my interest at around page 300 when all the kids came together and started trying to help each other. However, 300 pages into a book is way to late to make up for the boredom I had to suffer through to get to the good stuff.
All of this being said, I have to admit this style of horror isn't generally my thing. Since I find most of it to be very dry and not really character driven, or at least not in the way I enjoy, it is hardly surprising I didn't love this book. I had been hoping that loving the authors previous work would mean I would love her contribution to a genre I don't generally enjoy. So, if you love a good classic horror, in the true Stephen King style, then this book may be a totally different read for you, don't just take my word for it! I'm hoping to get the hubbies opinion on this one soon, seeing as he's a solid classic horror lover. When he gets around to it I'll make sure to share his thoughts.
The Waking Dark, by Robin Wasserman
Published by Knopf, September 10th, 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher