2 out of 4 stars
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Hal has no experience with (and little desire for) caving adventures, yet when his girlfriend Maria suggests they join a cave exploring group on a trip, he agrees to try something new as a means of strengthening their bond. The group’s leader is Stick, a slightly eccentric caving fanatic, eager to discover uncharted territory. Though the other members of the group all know each other, Hal notices that this does not prevent squabbles and disagreements among them when it comes to determining their plans.
Peter Worland’s Death Has a Thousand Doors is a fictional nail-biting survival adventure, detailing the story of this group of young people as they enter and make their way through an unknown and unmarked cave system. Almost immediately upon their entry, they run into trouble, meeting with a band of violent and unstable moonshiners who are none too happy to learn that the group has stumbled upon their illegal cache of booze and firearms. The moonshiners attack viciously, forcing those of the group who can to retreat farther into the cave, having no way out except to go through the maze to the other exit. To do this, they must rely on Stick’s limited expertise and hard luck. Unfortunately, the only map they have is a crudely drawn sketch from a hundred years ago, and there is no telling how accurate it is, or if there truly even is a way out of the nightmare.
Desperate to find their way to the other side, the members of the caving group must face flash floods, perilous drop offs, dead ends, and dwindling light, food, and water. Tensions grow as personalities emerge, and each member of the expedition faces his or her greatest fears. By the end, the aggression some individuals of the group feel toward each other is almost as deadly as the other perils they face, and each person is essentially left to fend for themselves as they claw their way to safety. Not all of them make it out, and the scars and memories that plague the survivors are not easily forgotten.
As a huge fan of survival adventure stories, I have read dozens in which the characters face deadly situations and must use their wits and sheer will to make their way through. Though I enjoyed the plot of this book and thought it moved through the events at an excellent pace (leaving just enough time for the reader to realize the sheer terror the characters must be feeling, without dwelling or getting bogged down in too much detail), several factors would cause me to hesitate significantly before recommending this book in its current state. The text file which I was given did not seem to be a finalized version of the book; in fact, it was so sloppily put-together that I would guess the document has not even been proofread in its entirety. I suspect this is the case because in at least two sections of the file, there were large blocks of text that were erroneously pasted in, completely out of order. (For example, in the middle of Chapter 3 there was a large chunk of Chapter 4, which appeared again when I got to the proper place in the story. A piece from Chapter 6 was also repeated later in the text, again with no logic or reason.) In addition to this egregious carelessness, there were dozens of typos, capitalization and punctuation errors, missing quotation marks and/or words, and other errors.
Finally, I had a difficult time with the narrative voice/tone of the story itself. Though it is understandable that the survivors of this incident would experience lasting psychological consequences, the tone in which this story was written came across as incredibly bitter and angry. The members of this exploration group were described as being in their 20s, yet at times the narrator and other characters behaved like immature adolescents, allowing their pride and machismo to overshadow rational decision-making. They were, simply-speaking, unpleasant people to read about much of the time, and I did not find myself rooting for them to get out of the cave like I would expect. However, other readers may have a less negative reaction to these personalities.
The story is laced with graphic violence, adult language, and sexual content, so I would not recommend it to minors. Despite the serious issues I had with the writing style and formatting, the content of the story itself was engaging, so I believe with a thorough edit this book could have a wide audience. In its current state, I rate the book 2 out of 4 stars, recognizing its potential to be worked into an exciting adventure.
Death Has a Thousand Doors
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