2 out of 4 stars
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Death Has 1000 Doors by Peter Worland follows a group of college student spelunkers who become trapped in a relatively unknown cave and must escape with limited supplies. It's told through the eyes of Hal, an adult college student. Almost right off the bat, some of the students die, and we follow the same set of characters for the entire novel as some of them are progressively picked off. The premise is rather simple, and for the most part, it's executed cleanly. Character interactions feel genuine, as does Hal's reactions to the events that befall him.
Simplicity, however, is one of the book's main weaknesses. The characters are introduced to the reader all at once when Hal meets them, making it feel like the author is simply describing them one after another. During the expedition itself, relationships between characters don't really change, they simply escalate as the pressure of escaping gets to the spelunkers. The female characters are also quite bland, as each is described primarily in relation to the person they're dating and their appearance. Even Hal's girlfriend, Maria, who is described as quite strong-willed, makes no effort to lead the group despite being arguably best-suited for it at one point. When combined, these factors make for fairly formulaic character development.
It's also worth mentioning that the editing in the copy I received is bewilderingly awful. There are errors from homonym mix-ups to misplaced quotation marks, and while they aren't on every single page, they're frequent enough to break immersion and make the writing feel just sloppy. What truly makes the editing special, though, is the fact that at one point, the book cuts from a chapter in the middle to the first chapter, entirely repeating the first half of the book. Towards the end, there's a chapter missing that details an entire character death. I have absolutely no idea why these things weren't caught earlier, and they made following the plot extremely hard at times.
The best part of Death Has 1000 Doors is the cave itself. The author was inspired to write the book by his own spelunking career, so the obstacles faced by the team of students are all very interesting. They never feel repetitive, and I found myself quite looking forward to seeing what the cave would throw at the characters next. It's clear that the cave was an amalgamation of the author's most exciting experiences while spelunking and the way he writes about it painted such a vivid picture that it felt nearly tangible.
Ultimately, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. It has amazing scenery, but its editing is phenomenally bad. The character interactions are effective, but not particularly compelling. I'd recommend the book to people who enjoy survival stories and spelunking, assuming the editing issues are sorted out in future releases. Due to some explicit content, the book isn't appropriate for younger audiences.
Death Has 1000 Doors
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