Friday, June 5, 2015

SKINNER by David Bernstein


I don't think I've ever given a book an F. Sometimes I feel like I'm fairly generous with my reviews and if I'm able to actually finish a book that means that there's something there that kept me reading until the end. And I've enjoyed all of the DarkFuse titles I've read so far to some extent. But this one stretched the limits for me and there was really not much there to like.

It involves a group of old friends and their ladies as they make the usual trip to a mountain bungalow for a nice weekend. They get caught in the usual freak snowstorm, get stranded, and are of course subsequently terrorized by the usual monster. The book is so derivative and unimaginatively conceived, it seems to be done on purpose. And defenders may say that that's the point: a homage, but I call bullshit. There are times when homages work or being derivative leads to great work. You can be overly faithful to genre conventions as long as you add SOMETHING new to the usual story, which Skinner did not do. The movie The Cabin in the Woods is a great example. An example from fiction that really works is Scott Smith's The Ruins, which started out pretty much with the same B-movie, friends-on-vacation-premise, and turned it into something really fresh, unsettling, and actually scary.

This book on the other hand felt like it was written by a beginning writer desperate for a movie adaptation deal. It actually felt as if a bare-bones screenplay was written first, and then sections were filled in in order to churn out a mediocre novel. It's filled with clunky exposition, laughable dialogue, story beats that are pulled straight out of a high school soap opera, cringe-inducing, rookie-level metaphors and similes, and a monster/villain that's so uninteresting it actually became funny. Yea, I guess he was frightening on the surface, but it was all superficially scary, as if the author was just pushing the necessary buttons to tell me that I'm supposed to be scared by the bad guy, rather than instilling true terror. I also didn't care much about the main characters to the point where I wanted the monster to hurry up and kill them so the book would move faster. 

I received an Advanced Copy of this from the homies at DarkFuse via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and that's what this is. I could go on and on some more about all the things about this book that didn't work. But it always makes me sad when I don't enjoy a book. So I want to just move on to a better novel.

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