Thursday 22 September 2016

REVIEW: Brett McBean - The Invasion

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 15th May 2016
Pages: 368


A copy of The Invasion by Brett McBean was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Sinister Grin Press via Hook of a Book Publicity in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.

For only the second time ever, Confessions is posting a second review for the same book. We in the Confessional have decided that rather than only letting one reviewer pick up a book at a time, we would let anyone take whatever they wanted and if more than one person read the same book, then so be it, we would still post the review on the site.

The main reason for this is so that we can offer readers varying reviews of the same book so it doesn't always look to be biased. We are hoping that it will give you lot that read these reviews, a little bit of extra help in deciding what you want to buy. So on with Chad's review.

Through no fault of its own, as I started to read The Invasion by Brett McBean, I realized that the book was going to have somewhat of an uphill climb, as I had just read another book recently with a similar premise. As I got into it though, I found I was reminding myself about how the rules and conventions of writing can often prove less than reliable. Specifically, in this case, authors often put themselves through the wringer trying to come up with something new and fresh, avoiding story tropes which have been done in the past.

What is important to remember is that if a book is compelling, the reader should find themselves propelled though the story, regardless of how many other iterations exist out there in the world. Besides the book I had just read, there are certainly plenty of examples of films which center around a character home alone, hopeless as some dark figure descends onto the house to do harm. It’s not a story that is particularly new but despite this, I thought that McBean did a good job crafting a book that stands on its own and packs a heavy punch.

In The Invasion, we find ourselves in the home of a popular author, playing host to friends and family but just as we think the evening is drawing to a close, they find themselves under attack by a gang that lays siege to the house. Their motives are unclear, save for the fact that they clearly intend to do harm, and as much as possible.

I thought the pace of this book was really well done and that, despite being of novel length, I thought it had more of the feel of a quick-paced novella. I liked how McBean managed to convey good information about the characters without going into a lot of long, awkwardly placed exposition. Despite the use of several POV characters, I thought they all had a unique feel that made it pretty easy to follow.

I also thought the construction of the chapters in the book was very clever in the way it utilized rooms in the house. Each chapter is named based on the room that it is taking place within. This leads to some really cool constructions when the characters become more mobile and start running around the house. Another use of the house itself that I thought worked really well was the opening chapter that shows the house with the porch light on in the daytime. Such an innocuous image, but McBean managed to implant it with an awesome feeling of creepiness and provided a great, ominous feel as the story began.

In books of this nature, I think that there is one aspect that is incredibly important in determining the success of failure of the story. It goes along the lines of being careful not to make your monsters too powerful. It is a lesson that I picked up very early on as a writer myself in that your characters have to at least have a chance of prevailing. You want to root for the characters but at the same time, you want those characters to be deserving of that support. I hate the feeling I get when I start to think that the monsters in a story are prevailing, mostly due to the protagonist being completely inept. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, take a look at the film The Strangers. Another home-invasion type story but there are so many points where the characters could have turned things around but failed thanks to some deus ex machina related intervention that made them lose all sense of reason and logic. Don’t put a gun in the hands of your characters and then try to concoct some reason why they still end up losing out to a bad guy who only has a baseball bat. In sum, if your characters are completely hopeless, the reader is more likely to abandon all sense of interest.

My point in relation to this is that McBean pulls off this aspect of the story quite nicely. The book isn’t simply a string of one horrific thing happening after another, for the sake of shocking the reader. In the grand scheme of things, the book often feels like the opposing forces are fairly even matched and that anything could happen as a result. I never felt like there was a foregone conclusion to the book as I was reading it and I never felt like the ending was particularly telegraphed or predictable. The book felt honest and authentic to me, avoiding some of the easier narrative devices that can make a story feel more contrived or forced.

Finally, I would say that I also liked the mysterious nature of the monsters in this story. As the gang that takes over the house is revealed, you get a sense that this is part of a larger, overall effort. They are in constant communication with others via their cell phones which suggests that more is happening off-stage which we aren’t privy to. And while there aren’t a lot of global, narrative explanations given for who these people are, what we do see is terrifying to contemplate. It just goes to show that sometimes you can scare more by what you don’t show or don’t tell.

The scariest stories for me are the ones that force you to contemplate scenarios that could realistically happen, more so than stories about vampires or zombies or aliens. This book was well constructed and executed and presents a vision that is pretty scary to consider.

Highly recommended.

General rating:


Reviewed by Chad.

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy The Invasion or any other books from Brett. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.


Book Synopsis:

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Brett McBean was born and raised in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. A child of the ’80s, he grew up on a steady diet of He-Man cartoons, Steven Spielberg movies and audio tapes such as Summer Hits ’88. And yet, somehow he managed to turn out normal (well, kinda…). He started playing the drums at age ten and after high school, studied music at Box Hill College, one of Victoria’s most renowned music schools, where he earned an Advanced Diploma. Shortly after completing the music degree, he turned his attention towards writing, and he now prefers to pound the keyboard rather than the drums.

His books, which include The Mother, The Last Motel, The Awakening and the Wolf Creek prequel novel, Desolation Game (co-written with director/screenwriter Greg McLean), have been published in Australia, the US, and Germany, and he’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards. He won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness. He has a keen interest in true crime, in particular the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of 1888, and most of his fiction deals with true-life horrors, often using real-life crimes as a basis for his stories. He still lives in the wilds of Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

And for more about Brett, visit his site or find him on social media:

Website – Facebook – Goodreads – Amazon Page

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