A group of people in an isolated place start dying one by one, which immediately sounds like a cliché. The story is full of unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other. It doesn’t sound good, does it?
And yet, somehow, it is. The extreme neuroticism of most of the characters becomes weirdly fascinating. It is so extreme the reader immediately starts to wonder what possible reason could there be for these people, who range from merely dysfunctional to psychotic, to be gathered together in one place. They cannot even begin to bridge the gulfs that separate them – communication between them is minimal, with characters repeating the same things over and over, as if they are talking to themselves instead of each other. While they understand that they are in danger and need to work together to survive, they just can’t manage it.
Each character accepts religious belief as being real and obvious, and some are even visited by manifestations of the deity. The religion is a strange amalgam of Judeo-Christian beliefs with an odd pop culture type flavour (for example their ‘bible’ is called “How I Rose From the Dead in My Spare Time and So Can You”, sounding more like some cheesy self-help book than holy writ.) You can transmit prayers electronically and can have some expectation of a result. Atheism is so unknown that it is not even a concept, as one character, when another character suggests there is no god, struggles to understand what he means.
There is an overwhelming feeling of paranoia and fear right from the start. One of the characters finds an artificial insect with a camera focused on him shortly after his arrival, and the fear of the characters that they are being experimented upon appears to be borne out by this apparent surveillance. The mysterious building that appears and disappears, the way the different characters see it, are all indicating that their minds are being tampered with and their already fragile mental health is being further eroded.
Near the end of this story there is a twist, which I won’t mention as it would be a huge spoiler. There was a moment where I found myself disappointed, as it appeared to send the story towards an ending which would have been extremely cliché. However the author twists the story again and surprises the reader, lending a whole new interpretation to everything that has occurred before. It also means the story ends with many questions and different conclusions that the reader can reach. I enjoy stories that have a certain level of uncertainty, because they can provide the reader with enjoyable speculation about what exactly was happening.
I really enjoyed this book. If you like something that’s a bit out there, a bit weird, then give “Maze of Death” a look.