Tin Crickets by Joseph Wise
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Dystopian horror. While this may seem redundant as a genre let me explain what makes this genre (and Tin Crickets) a little different. The best example I have to correlate to this is The Road by Cormac McCarthy (which I was unable to get through; I also bailed on the movie as it was far too horrifying for me). These are books where the reality is so harsh it's horrific. Because not all dystopian books are at this level. Think of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Station Eleven. These are all dystopian books that have possibly horrifying elements to them but do not belong in the horror genre. Tin Crickets belongs in the horror genre right next to Stephen King and Mira Grant.
What Makes it Horror
I've often argued with my husband (who loves horror) what makes a book or movie horrific. We've come to the conclusion that there are a few things that always seem to be present:
- blood, blood and more blood
- the likelihood of the main character(s) surviving
- major injury, illness or mental distress to a human or human-esque character
Think about it. These are always present traits. Whether you're encountering Pennywise, cannibalistic mermaids, a plague or 'the evil' it's always about human peril.
Joseph Wise has given us all these things and a little more in Tin Crickets. And he's done it with teenagers at the helm.
Tin Crickets is told through the eyes of an ambitious and frustrated teenage boy. He wants change to happen in his dystopian, messed up city (where he is trapped, as leaving means death) and so he takes to the streets with his friends and a trusty handi-cam video camera to capture all the injustice being done by the people in charge of the city. His hope is that it will incite anger, riots and eventually change.
Along his side we have three other teens. Each with their own complex and personality to bring to the table. I wasn't a huge fan of the only girl included in the quartet but did appreciate that Wise didn't immediately sacrifice her as many male authors are prone to do. Our pushy and in-charge lead boy gives us the story of Tin Crickets in a way that may be a bit skewed. And certainly there is room to infer for yourself the information he is given along his journey.
The First Half
I adored the first 50% of this book. Absolutely loved it. It's engaging, fast and different. While a dystopian story Wise gives us an entirely unique setting and backstory that isn't as cliche as some dystopian books have used recently. The politics and ethics touched upon during the first 100+ pages are brilliant.
And then it all goes a bit sideways.
Suddenly I'm in a Horror Movie
I don't really expect dystopian books to turn into horror movies. Maybe I'm naive but the extent to which Wise takes the plot, gore and twisted reality of Tin Crickets was a bit more than I expected. At about the 50% mark I started to realize that this was no longer a political commentary on society and our downfalls but was becoming a straight up gore fest. With evils encountered that are both 'healthy' human, ill human and less-than human popping up. Our crew runs into horrors that include: mutilated animals, medical experimentation's, and straight-up murder in a variety of different ways. I kept reading because I was desperate to learn what happened to our teens and how it would all resolve.
Obviously I don't want to give spoilers; but let's just say the ending was a bit disappointing. I was expecting a little more carnage (like we experience around the 75% mark) and a lot more loss overall; whether that be of humans, infrastructure, society, etc. It should be noted that the last 15% or so slows down a lot. This is not a high-climax and then over book. Wise takes us through some aftermath of the horror experienced and brings us to a satisfying (if not complete) conclusion.
For an independently written novel Wise has done a good job. I would have liked a little less of the telling in the horror-esque sections and a little more of the politics and conspiracy that we had at the beginning. Tin Crickets would make a great movie and perhaps with some tweaks and pulls of the politics through the entire book would elevate it to into 4-5 star territory. I would say if you are intrigued by the premise it's a decent read. You likely won't be shouting from the rafters about it but you are unlikely to walk away disappointed in having read it.
I would certainly read Joseph Wise's writing again and hope to read more stories with a conspiracy or political center point from him.
Please note I received a free copy of this book from BookSirens in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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