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It was kinda doo-doo... boogaloo!
on 8 November 2012
The epilogue of this book (yes, I made it to the end!) explicitly invites the reader to visit the Amazon review page and contribute their constructive criticism, so here I am, and boy do I have a lot to contribute! To paraphrase Mr Foster, I have constructive criticism backing all the way up my spine to my brain.
Where do I start?
The prose is, for the most part, meandering, flabby and weak, crying out for the services of a professional editor. There are occasional flashes of literary skill, but they are few and far between; their effectiveness crowded and strangled by the throng of superfluous clauses, airheaded internal monologues and confused structural elements.
The characters are thin as hell (and I am not referring to their build). The secondary protagonist, Harvey, is one of the most unbelievable and unlikeable "heroes" I have come across in a very long time. He's a former biker gang member who is now a well-to-do, womanising hypnotherapist. He's never given much of a coherent, consistent personality beyond the fact that he's oversexed, rich (and by God, the author never tires of reminding us just how amazingly wealthy and successful he is, over and over again), has a really big knob and is kinda seedy. I'm not even sure the latter is something we are supposed to feel, but I certainly did, and it sure took the dramatic sting outta some of the twists later in the novel! This guy runs the International Organisation of Hypnotherapy, which sells seminars and franchises across Europe and the US, and -- get this -- promotes the use of hypnotherapy as a cure for cancer, instead of, you know, conventional, evidence-based treatments, all-the-while presenting himself as a doctor without any relevant qualifications. This is presented within the book as an admirable thing. In a lot of ways, this guy seems like an avatar of the author inside the novel, but I really hope that this is NOT where the author made the money he spent on all those Metro ads, because it seems incredibly irresponsible and would probably kill more people, through lack of proper treatment, than Bishman and Leo have snuffed between them.
Harvey also has lots of repetitive, explicit, I-got-bored-so-I-skimmed-over-most-of-it sex with a girl called Anita. These sequences manage to be neither erotic, not funny, nor gross, exactly because they try to be all of those things (e.g. during one long "sensual" lovemaking scene, Harvey remarks that he hopes she's washed the "yogurt and cream cheese" out of her "crinkly bits"). The characters also exhibit a surprising lack of good taste for a pair of jet set millionaires: Harvey has a room in his immense mansion where everything is pink and heart-shaped, and when Anita sees it, she is captivated by it's "elegance"! Haha! It's pronounced "tackiness", dear. Anyway, this is a pretty sexist novel, so as a woman, she is basically a nothing character who exists primarily so Foster can describe her breasts (she gets more to do towards the end).
Bishman, the main serial killer, is probably the most interesting character, not because he is any more fleshed-out, but when he appears you know you are going to get some actual horror-related action for a change, and a welcome break from abysmal sex scenes and pink champagne. He is a drifter, abused as a child, addicted to drink and drugs, and is now a bisexual serial killer. He is not a Dexter-esque antihero, he is a cold blooded murderer of men, women and children, but Foster does eventually have him face off in a massive showdown with an even more despicable villain, and it is in these scenes that the book comes closest to being exciting and disturbing. It doesn't quite come off all the way, however, thanks to the clumsy prose, awful dialogue and lack of any real sense of peril.
Speaking of dialogue, it swings back and forth between nothing special and hilariously cheesy. The characters rarely sound anything like real human beings and have a tendency to slip into a sort of weird, contrived, tabloid newspaper-like register in their speech ("look, it's a multimillion-dollar Trident submarine!", "I'll book a room at the the five-star Marriott Hotel", etc.), and have a tendency to drone on and on like that without actually saying much of any real importance. Other time, they talk at each other like they are dictating postcards. There is also a strange mid-Atlantic cross-pollenation going on with the spoken language, which is quite distracting once you notice it: British characters, for example talk about wanting to "sick up" (a cutesy Americanism that I've ever heard a British person say in my life), while American characters CONSTANTLY use the word "right" as an intensive (e.g. "he's a right b***ard!"), which as far as I know is very much a British thing (and only within certain dialects, at that!), the American equivalent usage would be "REAL b***ard".
As I said before, Foster occasionally displays some flourishes of promising talent here and there, but he totally fails to maintain the quality of the best parts for any length of time. Part of the problem is the convoluted flashback structure of the narrative, which gets confused pretty quickly, with characters flashing back to things they didn't even witness, etc.
It's a shame really: the author has tried so hard to create something freaky and disturbing, but like the rubber monster and hubcap flying saucers in a 1950s B-movie, the fumbled execution makes it impossible to take seriously. The best I can say is: it's been nearly twenty years since this book was first published, maybe he's got better in the meantime. I will check out the next one, if it's cheap enough, because I'm interested to find out.
I give Creep two stars, for the promise it showed and its failure to deliver on it.