My first comment regarding this book was that I was rather surprised to see it was only 40 pages. I was expecting a longer, full-length type of novel. Not, of course, that I dislike short stories or was anything short of impressed by Hannibal House. It did after all earn 4 out of 5 stars in my book for giving me the creeps even though I read it in the middle of the day, on a treadmill no less. I just had that expectation in the back of my mind that I think threw me off more than anything.
Nevertheless, David Nicol (who I thank for sending me a copy of his story to read and review) does a fantastic job making me just a little more paranoid and jumpy today, even though it's the middle of the day and I know I'm safe.. Everyone knows at least one story like this, where a house is haunted and practically has a mind of its own. I think my first scary house story might have been a Goosebumps novel. In any case, Hannibal House was reminiscent of "The Amityville Horror" in that you never see the monsters or demons or what have you, but you know they're there and watching you. Part of me spent the entirety of my time reading this story shouting out "Get out of there!" at Troy, even though I obviously knew this fictional written character wouldn't respond to my pleas. I like that the subtle clues as to what was happening in the house were so obvious to the reader, yet I'm sure I wouldn't have thought anything of them had I been in Troy's position. I have three favorite events that hint to the dangers lurking in Hannibal House- the pictures Troy took of the house to send to his mother, Gary seeing Troy walking into his pub, and the newly installed television Troy had delivered to his new house. I won't give away what happens, but just know that I really enjoyed these moments in the story.
Like I said, I would have personally liked to see this story last a bit longer (especially after finishing it and knowing how entertained I was the entire time), but David certainly knows how to weave a tale. I really found it interesting how the places mentioned actually do exist, and if I had the money I would love to go visit the famed house myself. Maybe I'll return with my own material for writing a new story...
Growing Up Wired is a very interesting modern take on the typical coming of age story, and I have to say I think it was very well done. Overall, I give this 4 out of 5 stars, I did have to take a star off because of the lack of character development in the supporting characters.
I received a digital copy of this book from the author, after listening to a few of the short stories from his audiobook Not From Concentrate (I've reviewed the first 6 of 12 stories, this is the link) and wanting to read more by him. I was not let down, as this story was catchy, interesting, and eye-opening. David does a great job integrating 21st century technology into a 'boy meets world' kind of plot. Victor Hastings spends more time on his computer browsing virtual women than he does meeting real women through his fraternity. This comes to a head when he's forced to deal with real people, face to face. Can he handle social life, or is he destined to fail and remain plugged in to the world?
I think David created some likable (or at least personable) characters in Victor and The Snitz, but I feel like most of the other minor and supporting characters fell, well, flat. I could hardly tell his two romantic interests apart, let alone try to remember all the members of his fraternity. Was one of them black? Did he get in a fight with one of the fraternity's pledges? There were a few too many character names thrown in, but not enough character development. I think there should have been fewer characters, or more plot involving these stories. Which I would have liked to see, as I did enjoy this novel and was sad to see it end.
In an interesting twist, I read this on my commute into New York, and on my way back home, I listened to part of "Digital Girlfriend", another of the stories in David's Not from Concentrate. I can tell where he got the idea for Em from! Her little backstory is identical to "Digital Girlfriend", and I have to say I kind of like that. It would have been a little more fun had I listened to this story before reading Growing Up Wired, but that can't be helped. I like that there's more to Em/Karen's story, it makes her a little more like a real person and not a two dimensional character.
I really did enjoy this book, character development aside. It's interesting to see this kind of world where everyone is slowly losing social skills to the internet, IM chats, and text messages. And it's terrifying to realize that that is what's really happening to the world. Even now, I note the irony that I'm talking about books on the Internet, while I have another tab open to my facebook page and I'm chatting with a friend of mine. What happened to live social interaction? Everyone is so quick to friend people on Facebook, but nobody really bothers keeping these friendships strong in real life. It's just one funny post/link after another. That's not what I want my future to be. And I hate when people assume that just because I'm in my early 20's that I wouldn't be able to survive without technology. I handled not having power after Hurricane Irene, and I don't go into withdrawal when I leave my phone at home. Sadly, I can't say the same about many of my friends...