Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Review # 1: I Am Not A Serial Killer

I've been hearing Dan Wells's voice for about two and a half years now*, and finally got around to reading his book.

Overall, I'm impressed.

I'm not big on summaries during reviews, so I'll keep it simple:  its about a teenage sociopath who struggles to NOT be a serial killer, even as his small town is ravaged by one.  The premise itself deserves some respect--although it is slightly Darkly Dreaming Dexter-ey, the teenage twist actually put a very different perspective on things--better in nearly every way, as far as I can tell.

One of the most interesting sides of this novel was reading the first person sociopath pov.  I thought that trying to feel empathy for the character or even relate to him at all would be difficult.  And because the main character feels almost no emotion, it was hard for me to empathize with him, in some ways.  And yet . . . in the end, I realized that I had.  I think part of it has to do with John Wayne Cleaver's (one of the best protagonist names I've ever heard) desire to be normal.  Even though I can't relate to Cleaver's specific freaky-ness, I've felt like quite the outsider once or twice in my day and that much at least I can relate to--wanting to be normal, and failing miserably at it.  Dan does a great job with that, specifically by letting me into Cleaver's head.  I'm disturbed more often than not by what I find there, but just as often I'm intrigued and sometimes even sympathetic.  Pretty good for reading about a potential serial killer.

I've heard Dan Wells say multiple times that he feels one of his strengths in novel-writing is his beginnings.  I'll certainly agree as far as IANASK goes.  I was drawn in very quickly, intrigued by both the action and, most importantly, the thoughts in Cleaver's own head.  Dan's prose is also a pleasure--not too flashy, but often beautiful in a brutal, disturbing fashion.  And he captures Cleaver's voice fantastically.  But the ending was surprisingly satisfying for me as well.  He satisfied just enough of my emotional need from the story, answered some questions, and raised new ones.  As far as I'm concerned, any ending that includes all three of those is a good ending.  (The trick to great endings is including just the right ratios).

A few things I wasn't fond of:  the closing lines of many of the chapters, for one.  An extremely asinine thing to point out, I agree, but they did bother me often enough to mention (also, I figure I should say at least one bad thing about the novel, and it was pretty difficult to think of anything else).  My only other complain was that the book was slightly predictable (SPOILER ALERT . . . I mean, Mr. Crowley?  Come on . . . END SPOILER).

But other than that, I really think it was a very tight success, especially for a first novel.  Congratulations to Dan, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequels, Mr. Monster and I Do Not Want To Kill You.

My Rating:  * * * * * (5/7 stars)

Visit Dan's website:

Or buy His Book on AMAZON:

*  I've been hearing Dan's voice on the Writing Excuses Podcast he puts on with Brandon Sanderson and Howard Taylor.  They do an amazing job at creating a podcast for inspiring aspiring authors--if you're one of those, or just want to hear these guys talk, I highly recommend checking it out.

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