Holy shit, where do I begin...
The book opens with an infant's death. SIDS is a horrible fucking thing. We watch a very believable scenario in which the mother doesn't want to believe her baby girl is dead. This section is really well done. Broke my heart.
And then the fuckery begins.
The author moves on and tries to explain SIDS through fictitious devices. I thought this was tactless. People deal with this horrible reality far too often. It is the number one cause of death in infants. It's terrifying knowing that, sometimes, babies die unpredictably in their sleep. Offering up supernatural bullshit reasons seems disrespectful to me. But this is my opinion. Am I reading too far into it? Probably. But this is how I feel.
It gets worse, though.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the shit that happens in books simply because the plot says it needs to happen, no matter how unbelievable it might be: people making the stupidest decisions because the author needs to get from point A to point B; people not noticing obvious shit or completely ignoring it because the author needs them to react that way; and huge leaps of logic that end up being fucking spot on.
Here's some examples of each of those things:
#1. Doctors in a super-secret research facility leave the doors to their operating theater unlocked so that a nine-year-old kid can just walk in and see all their creepy deeds as they operate on the boy's friend.
#2. Mother's of nine-year-old boys never notice that their sons have never been badly injured or have ever taken ill, and when they are injured, refused to acknowledge that they just saw their kid heal like fucking Wolverine before their very eyes. There are two of these scenes in this book. The first is when a kid dumps acid on his arm, and when the blisters immediately disappear, she shrugs it off and thinks, "It must not have been so bad." Dafuq? Who doesn't know how acid works? Do any of you reading this review not understand how acid works and why it's dangerous? Don't you think you'd be fucking terrified if your kid dumped acid on his arm and the blisters just vanished? But wait, there's more! A day later, same kid dumps fucking scalding-hot fudge down his arm. Mom rushes him to the hospital. Blisters are gone. Once again, the "Must not have been that bad" defense. Oh, and remember, this boy had NEVER hurt himself before the acid on the hand, and then he starts hurting himself daily. Why? Because the author needed to escalate the narrative. Motherfuck this lazy-ass storytelling device.
#3. Woman doing research on why super-secret tech company is keeping tabs on kids in her town figures out the super-secret code for their super-secret files by making this leap of logic:
M-E-D-R-E-A-C-H stands for MEDical REsearch Eastbury Children's Hospital. Who the fuck would figure that out? Sherlock Holmes would bash his cock in his desk drawer trying to solve that fucking puzzle.
*growls as he pisses forcibly on the paperback copy of this book*
Not one line of this book is believable past the poor mother's reaction to the death of her baby. I appreciated how the divorced couple comes together over the disappearance of their son and the married couple is torn apart by the death of their baby daughter, but everything else was so laughably bad that I can't, in good conscious, give this more than one star. The writing is all over the place. The author definitely does not handle omniscient narration well. There's no flow to it. He hops from head to head in the same chapter, and sometimes in the same paragraph. Internal thought isn't italicized or set apart from the actual narration. You'll be reading along in third person and all of a sudden you'll see something like, I'm not going the right way. Several times, I had to stop and say, "Wait, what?" Once again, there's no rules as to when this is done. They come out of nowhere, and since the author bounds around through his cast's heads like a meth-addled pole vaulter, you never know who's thinking what.
And let's not speak of the unrealistic dialogue, or the idea the author conveys that every woman needs a man in crisis, as if a vagina makes you incapable of mourning without descending into madness. Plenty of men allow grief to destroy them, and there are numerous women who are strongest during the saddest moments in their lives. Trust me, I've seen both.
In summation: John Saul got a lot of shit for being a gay man who wrote mainly about children. In some people's eyes, this automatically made him a pedophile. As far as I can find, the pedo accusation is unsubstantiated bullshit perpetuated by gossips. I could be wrong. But so could the mud-slingers. A good reason to hate John Saul's work is because he was a terrible writer. This book is proof of that.
Final Judgment: A construction crane couldn't suspend this much disbelief.