Sunday, 26 August 2012
‘Alone’ – Brian Keene
I’d been reading about Keene’s brief foray into self-publishing, a couple of days ago, and figured that I deserved a little ‘Keene goodness’ as a reward for toddler induced insomnia (I’m a fan if you didn’t know already). After some messing around with the Internet on my phone, and £1.53 spent, ‘Alone’ was all mine and waiting to be read.
At only fifteen thousand words long, ‘Alone’ didn’t demand too much from me (a good job really all things considered) but gave a lot in return. I’d rather have had the sleep but ‘Alone’ was still a great way to while away a couple of those early morning hours, despite how unsettling the read was…
Blurb copied and pasted because… Well, I’m tired…
When Daniel Miller wakes up one morning, something has gone terribly wrong. The power is out. The phones are dead. The house is silent. The street is shrouded in fog. Both his partner and their adopted daughter are missing. So are their neighbours. And so is everyone else in the world. Daniel Miller is the last person left on Earth... or is he?
‘Alone’ is one of those books where you get to the end and think, ‘Why didn’t I see that coming? The ending is so obvious…’ Well, without giving too much away, the clues are there but Keene cleverly disguises them with a whole load of other stuff that grabs your attention and distracts you at just the right moments. There’s even a moment where Keene basically tells you what has happened but the doubt (and despair) in Miller’s mind pushes the plot on before you really have a chance to get your head around it.
The chief distractions are the atmosphere on Miller’s street and his own bewilderment about what has happened. Having no idea about what is going on Miller assumes that something has happened to everyone else and watching his theory gradually being disproved really adds to the tension. Miller panics more and more, no closer to discovering the truth, and you can’t help but share that anxiety (even if that little voice at the back of your head is telling you what’s really going on). You can’t help but get caught up in it all.
The fog, in his street, is a brooding presence throughout the book and it grows on you with each page that passes. This is even more the case once Miller finds what is waiting for him in the midst of that fog. I was willing Miller to make it back to his house before the thing in the fog caught up with him (that was one frantic paragraph in the book!)
There’s a lot of build up to the revelation then but when that revelation finally gets there… Well, it’s a tiny bit of an anti-climax (it just feels a little too obvious) but, at the same time, I also felt like I had to give Keene his dues for pulling the wool over my eyes for as long as he did. The ending is a bit abrupt but, given the nature of that ending, you can’t really blame Keene for concluding on that note.
Not a perfect book then, by any means, but what a ride in the meantime. ‘Alone’ takes a familiar premise and disguises it so well that you’re not a hundred percent sure what you’re reading until the very end…
Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten