Audience is an important factor to consider when judging a piece of art, be it a painting, a film, or a novel. It would be a little unfair to blast Bob the Builder for having poorly developed characters, a lack of depth, or an overly simplistic plot by my standards, just as it would be equally unfair to knock Ulysses for a complete lack of anthropomorphic construction equipement. That’s a severe example of course, but I’m building to something here: I tend to think that you have to judge something based not only on it’s merits, but whether it succeeds at what it sets out to accomplish.
Which is a long, drawn out way of saying that I’m not exactly the target audience for the chick-lit horror novel Half-Pipe to Hell. But despite that, I can appreciate what the book was doing, and have to say that it did a good job at it.
Half-Pipe starts with an up-and-coming professional snowboarder, Marcus, and his entourage arriving in a the newest ski-Mecca in the Rockies, New Pandora. From the opening chapters you can tell this isn’t going to be your typical zombie book. Instead of the grizzled, military man leading the ensemble of badass rugged individualists, you get a young snowboarder from a strict Catholic family and two, openly gay siblings: his agent and photographer, respectively. As the story unfolds we also meet a beautiful witch (the book labels her a “techno-pagan”), who pairs off with Marcus’ agent, and a beautiful werewolf, who hooks up with our protagonist.
Everyone, the good guys anyway, are beautiful, clever, and brave, and they become romantically involved with equally incredible people. The villain, the guy behind all the zombie shenanigans, is a little more broadly drawn. He’s the heavy, the force against which our heroes will be judged. No more, no less. And all that is a little boring to me, but that’s because I’m not even remotely the type of person Half-Pipe to Hell was written for.
Thankfully, the entire book isn’t this way. In addition to the main cast, we also have a few secondary stories that run in tandem with the main plot. Two of these, those following the sheriff and a doctor at the hospital, were particularly well done and appropriately tense.
Say what you will about Half-Pipe to Hell, but it handles tension with aplomb, and pulls off its numerous set pieces with practiced rhythm. Action and horror are difficult to write well. It’s easy to move too fast, and give the audience a machine-gun paced view, but the writers here take the time to let you drink it in.
That said, there were a few things I didn’t care for beyond the supernatural smorgasbord at the novel’s heart. The primary issue is that most of the characters are too broadly drawn so as to be almost caricatures. I mentioned the primary antagonist, but the biggest offender of the book for my was Marcus’ mother, a devote Minnesota Catholic who fills the book with “doncha’knows” and abortion clinic protests. I found that it added nothing to the book, and didn’t find the character to be well written enough to give the protagonist any depth.
Half-Pipe to Hell wasn’t for me, but I knew that going in. For the right audience, this novel will likely hit a sweet spot. It taps into the supernatural romance thing that’s so big with the kids these days, but also gives us plenty of bloody zombie action. Twilight this isn’t.
When you said witch I was like “what?” but then you said werewolf and lost me. I’m not a fan of these types of books either but my co-worker is. I’ll send the title her way. =)
Yeah, I know a few people who are into this stuff. They would probably enjoy it.
I’m on a Half-Pipe to hell…. (*head banging*)… Sorry, I could not help it.
I suppose it’s a calculated choice, Zombie is mainstream but that does not mean we all like the same stuff. Some like their zeds medium, others well done… and some with a romantic twist. I’ll pass though.