by Dan Wells
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John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.
He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He's obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn't want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don't demand or expect the empathy he's unable to offer. Perhaps that's what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there's something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can't control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
Dan Wells's debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.
You are evil, said myself. You are Mr. Monster. You are nothing. You are me.
Well well well…what an odd slice of fun this was. Simplistic and understated, this book really doesn’t try to be anything other than what it says it is, making for not only a fun, easy read, but a very touching one, as well. It’s not easy to read about a diagnosed sociopath…well, at least not for the average person. For me? It felt more authentic and real. I became entwined and engrossed with this character in the early stages of the book, making it enjoyable from page one all the way until the end. And then there’s that damn middle part that just…ugh…it was so…ah, fuck it-It made me laugh. Hard.
“So you have coincidental links to two serial killers,” he said. “That’s a little odd, I admit, but I’m still not seeing a cosmic conspiracy against you.”
“My last name is ‘Cleaver,'” I said. “How many people do you know who are named after two serial killers and a murder weapon?”
I mean seriously?? He really went there? You’ve got to be kidding me. And yet….is it odd that, in the end, I kind of loved where this went??? I can now see why some people didn’t like the direction this novel took, but I actually, after my initial shock, LOVED IT! It took a bit, I’ll admit, to get past the absurdity with which this was presented. But let me ask you this: For me, being the type of reader that I am, why wouldn’t I love the fact that this
little twist made it all the more perilous? Yeah, it was totally unbelievable. Yeah, it was an odd direction to go. And, yes, it will not be for everyone. But, for whatever reason, I decided I really liked it-Logic be damned.
I think that fire is more alive than we are-brighter, hotter, more sure of itself and where it wants to go. Fire doesn’t settle; fire doesn’t tolerate; fire doesn’t “get by.” Fire does.
I really did have an internal struggle on whether or not I liked what was happening in this one. I wrestled with the idea that, while I am in love with these types of books, this was really dumb. But it comes down to more than that, it comes down to if the positive outweighs the negative…and, for me, it did. And that big positive that made this whole book worth it? Our main character, John.
People scurry around, doing their little jobs and raising their little families and shouting their meaningless emotions to the world, and all the while you just watch from the sidelines, bewildered. This drives some sociopaths to feel superior, as if the whole of humanity were simply animals to be hunted or put down; others feel a hot, jealous rage, desperate to have what they cannot. I simply felt alone, one leaf sitting miles away from a giant, communal pile.
Emotionless, lacking empathy, and a social outcast, John was my favorite type of character, at the moment. Well, I like a little more empathy in my boys, but, hey-You get what I mean. Not without the quirky inner monologue or the twisted humor of the writing would this book have succeeded-of that I’m sure. John would not be a likable character to read about had we not gotten his odd rationalizations of the goings on around him or the way he views human flaws, such as love and loyalty. In a way, he’s broken. He longs to feel something, anything, if only to be like those around him-He can’t even cry. He gets jealous that others have this ability, and that’s why he is so fascinated with serial killers-weird sounding, I know! But, when you feel like you’re on the verge of being one yourself, it only makes sense to latch onto the one connection in this world you are sure is your only like to humanity.
“You’re weird, man,” said Max, taking another bite of his sandwich. “That’s all there is to say. Someday you’re going to kill a whole bunch of people-probably more than ten, because you’re such an overachiever-and then they’re going to have me on TV and ask if I saw this coming, and I’m going to say,’Hell yes, that guy was seriously screwed up.'”
“Then I guess I have to kill you first,” I said.
You heard me right-He thinks he is destined to be a serial killer. And, because of this, he has a set of rules he rigidly follows. And it has worked…until a serial killer comes to town. Every day his ‘monster’ threatens to leak out, to identify with this new murderer-sorry, sorry, not murder…SERIAL KILLER-in town. But when he finds out who is killing, he takes responsibility into his own hands. Who better to find a serial killer…than a destined-to-be serial killer?
“I’ve been clinically diagnosed with sociopathy,” I said. “Do you know what that means?”
“It means you’re a freak,” he said.
“It means that you’re about as important to me as a cardboard box,” I said. “You’re just a thing-a piece of garbage that no one’s thrown away yet. Is that what you want me to say?”
“Shut up,” said Rob. He was still acting tough, but I could see his bluster was starting to fail-he didn’t know what to say.
“The thing about boxes,” I said, “is that you can open them up. Even though they’re completely boring on the outside, there might be something interesting on the inside. So while you’re saying all of these stupid, boring things, I’m imagining what it would be like to cut you open and see what you’ve got in there.”
-lol, is it deranged I laughed and loved that?
Stellar, spot-on writing, wicked humor, and absolutely gruesome scenes that make you think deeper about life in general….I really liked this book. And, after looking at book two ratings and reviews, it seems book two is even darker, grittier, better. I cannot wait until I get the time to read book two. Because once John’s exterior cracked? I fell in love with him. I can’t wait to see how he wrestles with his dark side.