Sunday, July 3, 2016
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
Safety. Luxury. Manderley.
Manderley Resort is a gleaming, new twenty-story hotel on the California coast. It's about to open its doors, and the world - at least those with the means to afford it - will be welcomed into a palace of opulence and unparalleled security. But someone is determined that Manderley will never open. The staff has no idea that their every move is being watched, and over the next twelve hours they will be killed off, one by one.
I'm going to try and do this without spoilers, but I'm going to be honest upfront, and admit that I may not be able to do that. The simple truth is that I absolutely loved this book, and while I need to convince you guys to read it, I want to keep some of the book's secrets, secret. My dilemma is this, in order to really get across why I loved this book so much, I'm going to have to talk about one particular aspect of the book, but if I do it too much, I'm going to be talking out of school, so please forgive me know if I spoil anything for you. Now that I got that rambling out of the way, I'll continue one with my review, slash love letter to this book.
I'll be the first to admit that this book will not be for everyone. Some of you will not want to read this, no matter how much I end up gushing about it. In a nutshell it is a gory, violent slasher movie transferred to the page The victims die brutal deaths, and there are a lot of bodies by the time the action is wrapped up. Body parts are hacked off, copious amounts of blood get splashed about, and one poor sap is finished off in a clothes dryer. The violence is not subtle, nor is the author shy in describing it.
If the violence doesn't work as an automatic turnoff for some of you, I think others may be annoyed by the storytelling technique used to relate the narrative. Manderley, I will get to the name in a second, is a world class hotel, with world class security. That security includes security cameras, including audio, both visible and hidden, and there isn't a square foot of the hotel they don't show. All the action is narrated by someone who has access to those cameras, and at times the page splits into sections, as more than one camera is being spoken of at the same time. It can be jarring at first, but as long as you pay attention to what's going on, and you notice that each chapter starts with the cameras being viewed, you will quickly catch on.
If you could see the blurb at the top of the cover, you would see that it ends with calling this book a wrenching love story. The dust jacket calls it a multifaceted love story unlike any other. I would call it one of the most heart breaking and, at the same time, life affirming love stories I've ever read. It's in this aspect of the book where the spoilers are going to come into play, so I apologize once again, but I'm not going to be able to help it. And I'm going to be rather wordy, so proceed with caution.
Part of the reason I wanted to read this book, was the reference made, not only in the title of the book, but on the dust jacket as well, to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I've already mentioned the fact that the book is narrated by someone who has access to the surveillance monitors, and is able to see everything going on in the hotel. In the beginning, you aren't sure what role he/she actually plays in the mayhem going on. At first, I thought he/she was in on it, but that is disproved about a third of the way in. It's in that nameless narration, in the secrets revealed, and in it's heartrending love story that du Maurier's influence is most heavily felt.
Our narrator is in fact the head of security for the hotel, all of the security detail are ex special forces type individuals. The security office on the 20th floor was actually the first spot hit by the killers, and they were all wiped out pretty quickly. One of them escaped the office, only to be gutted like a fish not long after. The narrator has a rather large knife nested in between two of the vertebrae in the neck, enough to paralyze, but not enough to kill. It's through those eyes that we see what's going on, and learn about the hotel staff. It's through those eyes that we get to see what kind of people the victims are, their back stories, their personalities, and their loves. We get to hear the audio of their conversations, but only after it's filtered through the narrator's brain. It's through the narrator's eyes that we see them cheat, love, and die. It's because of the narrator that we feel anything for the victims at all.
The vast majority of the reviews I've seen, ignore the love story aspect of this book, and when they do mention it at all, it's dismissive of the relationship they are talking about. Two of the people trapped in the hotel survive the night, and they have a long and complicated backstory. It's a story fraught with pain and regret, and when they come face to face with each other, for the first time in years, there is a lot to be worked out between them. Their story, their love story to be precise, should not be ignored or dismissed as meaningless sex, or pushed aside because of their complicated past. It's a powerful force for both of them, and it's what helps keep them alive. For me though, it's not their love that drives the story. Instead it's the love the narrator feels for one of those characters that is the core of this book, and it's the one aspect of the book I haven't seen any review touch upon.
The narrator, who truly does love the other character, is forced to watch them surrender to the love of someone else. The narrator is given no choice but to watch them make love to someone else, and to hear their relationship described as merely physical, a way to pass the time, and one that was incapable of moving any further. The narrator, who was thinking marriage, was confronted with the idea that they were only a placeholder. By the end of the book, it's obvious that the character, I'm trying so hard to not name, cared for our narrator, but not in the same way.
So put yourself in our narrator's shoes. You are paralyzed and playing possum, sitting in a room with one of the killers, who is also watching the video cameras, and you are not only watching your love slip through your fingers, but you are forced to watch the person you love, fight to stay alive. You would rage at the unfairness of it all, you would probably shed a tear or two, and your heart would be breaking into a million pieces. I think a lot of us would have given up, moved the distance needed to finish the job the killer started, and slip into oblivion. Instead, our narrator does everything they can to help the other two characters out, not only helping them to survive the night, but to have the love and life together that the narrator once dreamed of. By the end, the narrator has surrendered the life they once dreamed of, so another can have it. I would like to think I would have done the same thing, that I wouldn't have given into my pain and rage at my world crumbling down, but I'm not sure I would have the strength of character to do it. The narrator is a true example of what a literary hero is supposed to be, and I'm so glad I met them. By the end of it all I was more than half in love with our nameless narrator. This is a character that will always stay with me, they are snugly nestled in my heart and mind, and I'm more than okay with that.