Review: Skarlet

Posted: August 1, 2013 by in Books We Don't Like (2/5 single_star) Meta: Thomas Emson, Horror

Jake Lawton is a bouncer at a London club’s goth night where nearly thirty people die of a drug overdose–one of them his ex-girlfriend. Not long later they all rise from the dead and begin a killing rampage, draining the blood from everyone they come in contact with. People refuse to believe it, but many call them vampires.

The drug Skarlet is the culprit and Jake is being framed for selling it to the clubbers. He’s on a mission to clear his name, but as people rise from the dead and chaos ensues, Jake works to unravel the mystery of the cause and stop the evildoers from realizing their grand plan.

I’m gonna be real here: I did not like SKARLET (Amazon). At all. This is not the kind of book I would buy, and if Steve sends me the sequel I’m going to send it right back. Why? It’s the genre: horror-vampire-thriller mash-up with gore, blood, and various brutality. But, hey, maybe you like that kind of stuff so this is the kind of book for you.

That being said, the author is an experienced writer, and it’s not a poorly written novel. The evil people are pure evil. There’s a mythology associated with the vampires. The present-day London setting was clear and yet didn’t clutter the narrative. The main characters are complex people. And the plot moves along with enough interesting twists and turns to keep readers engaged.

However, SKARLET has its share of issues, the most notable being the flow. Have you read Dan Brown? Did you notice that his chapters are really short? The chapters in this are like that. The scenes are short enough that there are constant cliffhangers–which is exhausting for me to read–and there are even some action sequences with scenes as short as one page. Plot events were circular, there was a lot of character movement, and with such a large cast it was difficult to follow the whys and wheres of everyone’s comings and goings.

Couple short scenes with a multitude of PoVs and it’s difficult to understand the characters with any real depth because you hardly have time to get into their heads before you’re whisked along to the next character. This made it hard for me to really like any of the main characters or believe the motivations of the antagonists. Jake was fine enough as the protagonist, but the secondary characters, especially the women, are awkwardly and inconsistently drawn. For example, the gutsy reporter Christine starts out well enough, but I would have liked to see the qualities that made her such a hard-nosed reporter translate more consistently to the matter at hand.

Random PoVs, a confusing mythology, and a hard to follow storytelling style left this EBR reviewer less than impressed with SKARLET.

Emson also liked adding scenes from the PoV of random people who die–I guess if you like the horror flavor of the concept you might enjoy this part of the book, but I had a hard time seeing the point. I would rather follow Jake as he attempts to discover the mystery behind the outbreak, but that part of the story drags out for the sake of sensationalizing the bloody violence of the vampires. Ultimately I saw that it did have a purpose to the plot, but not clear until the end when my frustration had nearly boiled over.

The mythology was… interesting, but the jury’s still out on that one for me. Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar. Alexander the Great. Vampire demon trinities. Using mythology and science to bring about a new plague of vampires. I just don’t know. I guess I could have believed it more if I had liked the characters, but it all seemed so shallow to me. And the vampires themselves were meh.

I may be lacking a fundamental understanding of the horror-vampire-thriller storytelling style, which may be the result of my dislike for this kind of book and therefore my dislike for SKARLET itself. But I’m not so sure.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Lots and lots
  • Violence: Blood is everywhere
  • Sex: Lots of references (including rape, prostitution, and incest) and a few scenes

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