I have always been a reader - as a kid, reading kept me busy, kept me company, kept me out of trouble (mostly), kept me occupied and non-bored. Growing up, I read mostly fiction, some mythologies, some historical fiction and sci-fi, not much in the mystery genre past the Hardy Boys. And in the eighties I read This Present Darkess and Piercing the Darkness, falling completely for the storylines and the adventure of a supernatural reality with demons and angels and Christians praying through it all. The author, Frank Peretti, has been away from Christian fiction for while now (I'm guessing they're not counting the Veritas Project series?), and he's back with a new page-turning edge-of-your-seat stay-up-all-night-with-the-lights-on thriller: Monster (2005, WestBow Press).
My wife read it first - couldn't help herself, and I felt sorry for her, needing a weekend's release in the midst of play rehearsals and national teacher certification projects. It took her two days - faster reader and really got into the story, escaping into the woods of the Pacific Northwest in the midst of a "bear attack" gone bad. I must say that she liked it more than I have, and I'm tempted to let her write this review... Naah.
I don't think it's a spoiler to share something that happens in the first one hundred pages of a four hundred page book: the "bears" that attack appear to be vicious, angry, very large, and NOT bears. Instead, Bigfoot is on the prowl again, finally coming out of hiding after the butt-whooping sustained at the hands of Steve Austin in the late 70s. The action is fast, the writing very descriptive and flows very well with the plot points taking place. It felt like it reads faster in the action parts, slower in the detailed investigation parts, and that's a high mark of a good writer. Reed and Beck are getting ready for a survival weekend with their friends Cap and Sing, until they come upon a cabin that's been trashed. That night they discover its owner dismembered in a tree, and the thing that did the dismembering coming back for more. Beck is attacked and taken away, Reed is left in the utter dark not knowing what to do and weak from the adrenaline rush, and then he has to explain what he saw while trying to hold out hope that his wife is still alive. The investigation is two-pronged - find the "bear" that did this so it can be killed, and find Beck or what's left of her. In the midst of it all, the "bear" isn't a bear, another couple is attacked and tells a similar frightening nearly-dismembered story, and there's a company making a ton of money in experimentation and..... HEY, no more spoilers here, ok?
I liked the story, the plot, the characters and the characterizations. I got to know them fairly well, though there might have been too many characters to get into the head of any one of them. I would've liked to have gotten into Reed's head a little more: his fear, his hope, his analysis as a police officer from his point of view. It was there, but the cast was too large to hold it for very long. And that's what struck me most - I would've loved this even more as a movie-of-the-week, something on the SciFi Channel on a Friday night with popcorn, movie score and cool CGI effects. Reading a book like this is a sign of a good writer with an eye for video - and it was distracting for me the second half of the book. Knowing that on TV this would be over in an hour, but with me reading it'll still be a long long time (slower reader than my wife) made it seem to drag in spots - but really, just felt like I needed a commercial break in there somewhere. As a Peretti book, it delivers on all the right thriller levels. As a Peretti book that will definitely find its way to DVD sometime soon (I hope!), it'll be that much better.