4 out of 4 stars
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Imagine being trapped in a dark cave, climbing unexplored territory, and crossing treacherous chasms as you search for a way out. Now, imagine also having to escape from a trigger-happy trio blocking the cave's exit; this is the fate awaiting a group of college students in Death Has a Thousand Doors by Peter B. Worland.
Hal is not an experienced cave explorer, but he is infatuated with Maria, who persuades him to join the group for an adventurous weekend. At the cave's entrance, the group stumbles upon a homemade distillery, followed by a violent assault from the owners, resulting in the murders of two of their friends. As the survivors desperately hunt for another exit from the hazardous cave, they must contend with the loss of light, mudslides, steep inclines, food rationing, sickness, and growing discord among them. Pushed to their physical and emotional limits, they begin to doubt each other and themselves. Can they find the cave's exit before it's too late?
As you've probably surmised from the summary, this is not a light read for the faint of heart. Worland crafts such realistic descriptions of the tight spaces, all-encompassing darkness, and panic to survive, that I took breaks from reading to avoid feeling claustrophobic; never have I been so aware of reading a book from the safety and comfort of my cozy bed!
Given that the book is 244 pages, and the cave "adventure" begins in Chapter 3 and continues for nine more chapters, I applaud Worland for consistently maintaining such a suspenseful plot. Regarding character development, he masterfully conveys the frustration, fear, and exhaustion different characters experience over the course of the story.
The story is written in the first-person narrative from the perspective of Hal, and I particularly like his reflections in the preface and epilogue. Both sections are somewhat confessional, and Worland's portrayal of Hal's sorrow, guilt, regret, and love for Maria are powerfully emotive and relatable.
The editing was flawless, but the appearance of the book cover lacked creativity, which I found disappointing, given the overall appeal of the book. Although I read the Kindle format, if I were browsing in a bookstore, I most likely wouldn't give the current cover a second glance. In all other aspects of the book, Worland takes the reader on a suspenseful journey--why not begin the adventure with a more imaginative cover?
The cover art is the only thing I am able to highlight for improvement, but its absence did not detract from my reading pleasure. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to readers who enjoy suspenseful adventures. However, I would caution readers who are sensitive regarding content involving violence, profanity, and rape.
Death Has a Thousand Doors
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