Friday, March 25, 2011

The Midnight Club, by Christopher Pike


Poor man's Lurlene McDaniel reincarnate. Really. (And she's not even dead yet!) Pike sets his tale in a hospice center for teenagers--a McDaniel setting if ever there was one. But where McDaniel savors the poignant tragedy of young love and the implacability of impending death, Pike focuses on . . . reincarnation. Seriously. One of the dying girls remembers tens of thousands of years' worth of past lives, all of which (of course) include her current love interest.

The real bummer about this book is there's really no there there. The cover (and Pike's name thereon) would seem to imply that a thriller waits between the pages. Instead, it's just a book about . . . nothing. The titular Midnight Club gathers to tell ghost stories, sure, and some of them are pretty good--better than the book itself, in fact. But the overall story isn't a thriller. It isn't anything. I'm not sure I know what the climax of the book even was. The lead character learns some kind of lesson, I think? About love? Honestly, this book was a mess. It's awash with elements of Eastern religion--all sorts of Eastern religions--but it never really gets to any sort of point or bottom line.

(This lack of focus is exacerbated by the discontinuity between the story itself and the story as presented in the blurb on the back of the book. The death of one of the club members is at best tangential to what little story is present here; contact from 'beyond the grave' doesn't even constitute a blip on the radar screen of the plot. This is not a ghost story. Unfortunately.)

Pike seems to be trying to write about the emotional trauma of facing your own death, of guilt, of responsibility, of fate, of hope, of resignation. But he doesn't really write any of the characters authentically. As a reader, I never felt what the characters were supposedly feeling. There was no depth of emotion, no resonance. As a result, the big payoff--a largely emotional payoff--was a dud. Perhaps there's a reason he's known more for slashers and thrillers than interpersonal dramas. Indeed, the best parts of the book were the horror stories told by members of the club.

I was hoping for a hot mess of a book--so bad it's good. But this book didn't even rise (or sink) to the level of the spectacularly awful. It was just . . . pointless. It lacked McDaniel's depth and angst and feeling and focus(and that's saying something) and didn't even make up for it with cheesy teen thriller drama.

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