Tuesday 19 June 2018

Book Review 5 : 'Dark Origins', by Anthony .E. Zuiker.

A Review 

One a day will die
Two a day will lie
Three a day will cry
Four a day will sigh
Five a day ask why
Six a day will fry
Seven a day
Oh, my.

For those of you in the dark (pun intended), Anthony Zuiker is the creator and executive producer of the famous television franchise, CSI : Crime Scene Investigation. This alone would be enough for all Crime fiction fans to make a beeline to read his book.
The added incentive of a website, Level26.com, where readers can log on to watch video clips of the story, as they go along reading the book, is a new, and perhaps welcome concept to allow readers to experience the story better.
Anthony Zuiker says in his interview that he took to writing because he wanted to take this medium and find a way to make to create new reading experiences with readers.
Has that been achieved? Well, for me, yes and no.
Yes, because this book created a new experience of creepiness, despite the fact that I’ve grown up on hair-raising choices of horror fiction for years.
No, because at the end of the day, it is a rehash of the same crap that seemingly goes on every odd psycho’s mind.
It seems rather convenient to make the key antagonist go exceedingly haywire with his killing sprees and blame it on ‘Psychosis’. Too easy for the author to explain away such inane human behavior, one would say.


The Key Characters:

So we have the protagonist, Steve Dark, who is true to his name and lives in a very dark place in his disturbed mind.
And we have an antagonist, Squeegel, who is the quintessential psychopath, except that he has been recognized as the highest ever grade in the taxonomy for psychos, a grade 26 against the existing highest grade 22, known to the world.
Sibby, is Dark’s wife, the romantic love interest in the story, and consequent victim, who suffers the worst of the situation. The reader’s heart goes out to her, and especially her baby, especially during their suffering at the hands of the said fiend.
Riggins, the aging investigator, is annoying as the puppet that is helpless against the forces that play his strings.
Constance as Dark’s colleague seems more of an add-on to make the story a little more interesting, although she has a fair contribution to make during the course of the investigation.
Wycoff is just too cliché. A powerful man misusing his authority is a done-to-death premise in most TV/ film offerings. But this guy is particularly more trying than most.


The Pros:

The only appealing (& perhaps, the saving grace) of this book is the deep love between Dark and Sibby. The scenes describing the fragile and yet, unshakable equation between them are endearing.
Horror lovers would enjoy being constantly scared for the characters. Each turn of the page alleviates and does ample justice to the reader’s fear. The grim fates that befall the hapless victims of a psychopath killer out on the loose, send multiple shocks up the spine.
The website is a good add-on for readers who like to live the experience of the horror on screen. It did help put a perspective to the appearance of the characters just as the author envisioned them to be, especially Squeegel. The white-suited apparition reminds the reader of the infamous Voldermort and a particularly flexible Michael Jackson, although his yoga-type movements are a bit over the top and almost comical, given the seriousness of the horrific situation.
Dark’s exceptional hunting skill of being able to shut out his personal grief to ‘empathize’ with the killer’s mindset, albeit in a horrible way, to be able to predict his moves and track him down inspire awe in the reader.

The Cons:

Squeegel is referred to as the monster throughout the book. Call it nitpicking if you will, but calling a monster a ‘monster’ is just unoriginal to the point of being amateurish. Perhaps the reader’s expectations of Anthony Zuiker’s offering were too high to begin with, but one would expect no less from the creator of CSI.
The tag line on the paperback is ‘Serial Killers aren’t made. They’re born.’ Well, agreed, that is supposed to indicate that there are certain classes of killers who do not need reason to kill. Why then, does the antagonist have fixed ideologies in his mind that progressively pivot towards certain kinds of injustice meted out by a certain groups of people? Does not make sense.
However it was the host of unanswered questions, or discrepancies that leave the reader with a sense of being left ‘hanging’ at the end of the novel.
The first question is why?
Why would a man want to go about killing indiscriminately? Agreed, you are allowed into his twisted mind enough to understand that he has a deep-rooted hatred for what he perceives as wrong, which in itself is rather vague, because the reason for his warped mentality, is not uncovered throughout the book.
He has a hatred for widows. Because, they cash their martyr husbands’ cheques, soon after their death and ‘cheat’ with other men? Twisted logic indeed.  So, he needs to kill innocent animals that were connected to war widows. I mean, seriously?
The reader is left to assume, perhaps incorrectly, that this character was subject to injustice by his mother/aunt/guardian sometime in his childhood…well, you never find out.
He has a loathing towards teenaged boys, because they drink and waste time when the parents expect them to be in college…huh? Seriously? So much so, that the scene where Squeegel rapes them into bloody mess of beseeching humans is disgusting in its brutality. But then again, why? Was he tortured by a man during his own teenage? No answers come forth in the book.
Another example of his twisted irrationality is the assumption that church priests need to be punished because they are child molesters. Damn, but then, generalizing a section of the populace is perhaps an evil that is highly consistent with realities of society we live in. More than one story has used psychos who kill a particular sect of people, because one among the group has harmed them in some way.
And yet again, the scene where he explodes cute little finches is horrendous, only worse than the episode where he slaughters beautiful horses breaks the heart. Animal lovers are sure to be disgusted with this madman, as perhaps is the author’s intention.
However, the recurrent exasperation for the reader, is as mentioned before:Why? Every little episode builds up the questions in the reader’s mind, and when the hapless reader is sure that the answers shall be revealed at the end, they never get answered.
Another major question that pops into the reader’s head is: What does this Squeegel character do for a living? How is he able to afford multiple credit cards, multiple safe houses and hideouts all over the country, latest state-of-the-art equipment to stalk his victims, jets to fly around…etc. when all he seems to do all day (and night) is stay cooped up in his horrid basement to plan the gruesome death of his next victim. It does not make any sense to leave such huge gaps in the story.
So, after closing the book, the reader is left wondering why and how Squeegel did what he did.
Perhaps the biggest discrepancy is that the timelines do not match up along the story. The editors of the novel seem to have skipped checking the fact that the protagonist is supposed to have stayed with Sibby a year before. But then, he also took a full year to try and heal himself from the repercussions of Squeegel’s revenge.
The origins of Squeegel also have inconsistencies; it is confusing and unclear because he is supposed to have gone uncaught for first twenty, and then around thirty years. What is that supposed to mean?

 ‘This made no sense to Dark - Riggins being here, the goons tailing him, the ticking clock. Sure if you screwed up in Special Circs, your career ended in one of the three ways: demotion, dismissal or death.
But death usually came by the hands of the monsters you pursued. Not the people in charge.’

Well, all one can say after reading this is, it makes no sense to the reader either. Other than the supposition that Wycoff misuses his authority beyond rhyme or reason, it seems too far-fetched that he would get every Tom, Dick and Harry eliminated to hide a dirty little secret that is almost commonplace in today’s age of Clinton and more recently, Trump.
 Another major qualm is when Steve Dark supposedly lost his mind when his family was brutally murdered, he seems extremely well-recovered at the end, when he loses the one person he cherished the most…and the reader wonders, really?


The conclusion:

It is one thing to have an open ended termination to the tale where imaginative readers have a thrilling opportunity to assume what they fancy. It is quite another to pose a bunch of questions throughout the book for the reader to mull about, and end up never answering them. Not a good premise at all. After all, readers are an intelligent species who like to be challenged, but certainly not kind enough to allow their intelligence to be taken for granted.
Today’s readers are spoilt for choice, with a perpetual stream of good books to read. One expects a lot better from a celebrated & seasoned crime fiction creator of Zuiker’s caliber, to have given us better, with his novel.
In conclusion, this is just too dark to be worthy of a purchase. Pick it up only if you are desperate to find something or anything to read, or if you truly enjoy a supposed horror tale, with senseless violence & puke-worthy gore.



Will it end here? Are you the one who will bring death unto me?

They (Special Circs) work cases most citizens never heard about, would never want to hear about, and certainly did not want to think possible.
If they did, they’d never leave the house.
Not that they’d be safe at home.A high percentage of the really twisted stuff happened behind front doors all over the country. Like the husband who thought his wife had been running around with an old college boyfriend, then took a golf club and impaled her with it, from cavity to throat.

This was stuff nobody in their right minds wanted to think about for more than a few seconds.
This was stuff he thought about all the time.
He lived for the dark side of man.
But this case at hand and this snuff film they’d just watched…
Well, he could almost understand the silence.

 ‘Squeegel  is a Level 26 killer –the highest rank we now recognize , and about four ranks above what the rest of the world recognizes.

After hearing it, Dark found it difficult to unhear it. The words seem to dig through the pulpy mass of his brain, creating their own little echo chambers. You could silence the source, but you couldn’t stop the relentless echo.

 He thought of Dark struggling with his own barriers, especially the ones Squeegel had erected especially for his hunter.

This made no sense to Dark - Riggins being here, the goons tailing him, the ticking clock. Sure if you screwed up in Special Circs, your career ended in one of the three ways: demotion, dismissal or death.
But death usually came by the hands of the monsters you pursued. Not the people in charge.

The only way to catch him is to become like him. To think the sick little things that he does. To climb inside of his diseased mind and try to make sense of it all. But I can’t do that, not now…that’s what you do. I try to catch this monster, I’m absolutely fucking terrified that I ‘m not going to come back the same man.

No deductive logic. No reasoned guesses. No gut. No hunch.
I am the monster. What am I thinking?      

A holy peace came over him, as the blade took off his right arm at the shoulder joint. Then his leg, his mid-thigh.
He’d been trying to tell him one last thing.
He’d been trying to thank him.


Photo: ©️Chethana

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