Just when I think that I couldn't possibly read anything worse than Innocent Mage, David Morrell descends to the challenge. I actually remember when Creepers was first released - the art of infiltration or "urban hacking" was something I had read about, and a stand-alone thriller from the author of The Fraternity of the Stone on the topic sounded pretty awesome. For some reason or another, I never picked up a copy. Now, unfortunately, I have.
Creepers tells the story of a small group of university students and professors who "infiltrate" abandoned buildings and do some exploring. The book is told from the point of view of Frank Balenger, a journalist who is tagging along for this particular expedition - a visit to the abandoned Paragon Hotel.
The first few chapters are blatantly expository. The dialogue between Frank and the others, supposedly character-building, is actually just an awkward Q&A, punctuated by Frank's detailed explanatory survey of the equipment.
Frank: Why are you an infiltrator?
NPC: (Lengthy sermon about the importance of the past)
Frank nodded while he studied the military-issue flashlight with joint halogen and LED bulbs that could last for 220 hours without recharging.
Frank: Is infiltration illegal?
NPC: (Lengthy explanation of the moral code)
Frank nodded while he admired the titanium-alloy crowbars, each approximately 1.38 meters in length and .04 meters across, used by Special Forces Recon units and fire rescue teams.
The scary thing? This is the best part of the book.
Although Frank is the only character actually memorable enough (not entirely a good thing) to have a name, the rest of the group is composed of the obligatory fat professor, the fat professor's sidekick, the grad student with big boobs and the grad student with big boobs' boyfriend.
After watching Frank masturbate over their state-of-the-art mining helmets and pee bottles, the NPCs accept him as one of the crowd and, without further ado, go trooping off to the abandoned Paragon Hotel.
Upon entering the Paragon, the book abruptly shifts from The Infilitration Manifesto into My First Thriller, by Davy Morrell, Age 8 and 1/2. Plot twists come down like a rain of frogs - inexplicable and repulsive. To add to the absurdity, Morrell persists in using times as chapter headings, kind of like 24, only, you know, bad.
Trying to explain the full depth of the absurdity is impossible without spoilers, but since you should never read this book anyway, here goes:
Fearsome Dangers: Mutant rats and feral, five-legged albino cats abound. There's something horrible in the swimming pool (never explained, incidentally). The hotel was built by a sinister lunatic.
Shocking Revelations: Everyone wants the Booby Grad Student, including the Professor, the Assistant Professor and her boyfriend (we can only assume, as he hasn't said anything).
Fearsome Dangers: The Assistant Professor is attacked by a hole in the floor. The crazy hotel is collapsing!
Shocking Revelations: A dusty-but-conveniently-located police file reveals that the hotel was filled with mysterious murders.
Fearsome Dangers: A gang of roving bandits kidnap everyone! The Professor gets impaled by a staircase, the crazy hotel is collapsing MORE!
Shocking Revelations: The Professor isn't a Professor (although he's still impaled)! Not sure what that makes the Assistant Professor (is he the Professor now?), but Booby Grad Student is still Booby and her Boyfriend still hasn't said anything.
Fearsome Dangers: The Booby Grad Student's Boyfriend dies! There's a storm - the crazy, collapsing hotel is flooding!
Shocking Revelations: The hotel is filled with Lost Mobster Gold. Frank isn't a journalist... he's a super-soldier!
Fearsome Dangers: There's a serial killer! The ex-Professor and some bandits all die! The flooding, collapsing, crazy hotel is wired to explode!
Shocking Revelations: SuperFrank has PTSD! SuperFrank isn't a super-soldier... he's a super-cop! There's a Victim Girl trapped in the Lost Mobster Gold!
Fearsome Dangers: Serial killers! Bandits! The flooding, collapsing, exploding, lunatic hotel is now ON FIRE!
Shocking Revelations: The Boyfriend is alive! No, wait, he's dead again! Booby Grad Student dies too! The serial killer once killed PsychoSuperFrankCop's wife! ALL! TOO! MUCH!
Fearsome Dangers: Serial killers! Bandits! Mutant cats and rats attack! Exploding, collapsing, flaming, flooding, crazy hotel!
Shocking Revelations: Victim now loves PsychoSuperFrankCop even though he keeps calling her his DEAD WIFE'S NAME! Serial killer caused all the historical mysterious murders and killed the lunatic builders or something! FIRE! ALL! FIRST! ACT! GUNS!
Do not make eye contact and creep slowly away from this book.
Rating: One crushed glimmer of hope. (For the tiny, foolishly optimistic moment on page 41 when I thought the book was just about mutant cats)
Tube journeys: 2