Book Review: The Five -

Book Review

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Author: Robert McCammon
  • Publisher: Tor/Forge
  • Genre: Horror
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback, 608 pages
  • Series:

Book Review: The Five

A road movie slasher film in novel form

By Chuck Francisco     January 23, 2014

The Five by Robert McCammon
© Tor/Forge
When renown horror author Robert McCammon's The Five takes the stage for its encore paperback tour, the raucous adulation should be a sign that this experience is to be savored. This novel absolutely plays to a number of crowds, and yet there is a a detrimental barrier for entry which could dim the lights on some reader's experiences. Since The Five is much more greatest hits than one hit wonders, let's start this concert with the guaranteed to please songs.

Right out of the gate The Five should hook horror film fans, since the frame work of the story is about a rock band on the rocks, being stalked by an unhinged war vet, who is bent on their destruction. Our band are the titular Five: fist fighting guitarist/lead singer Nomad, hippy song writer/guitarist Ariel, well season bassist Mike, 60's devote' and keyboardist Terry, and angsty drummer Burke. This band about to break is shuttled from barrel scraping gig to roadside roach motel and back again by longtime manager George. As they set out on what could be their last tour, a emotionally traumatized Iraqi war sniper becomes fixated on their latest song and its video When the Storm Breaks, which seemingly is an indictment of US soldiers killing innocent kids in war zones. 

This tried and true setup creates a lethal game of cat and mouse across the American southwest. Evoking the best parts of The Hitcher and Road Games, The Five has a great deal to offer for fans of stalker slasher films. Simultaneously the novel teases a potential supernatural element with hints of The Omen and The Prophecy. These instruments blend so harmoniously well together that it is shocking The Five (hardback originally published in 2008) has not been optioned into a horror flick. 

Robert McCammon is no stranger to the spotlight (most will recognize him as the author of A Boy's Life), and so it comes as little surprise that his prose is exceptional. He weaves in and out of character's heads with the supreme ease and confidence of seasoned professional (sometimes within the same paragraph). His pages are densely packed with vivid descriptions of nearly everything imaginable, which sometimes works to the narrative flow's detriment as something is given a touch too much attention, distracting from perhaps a more interesting or salient point.

The biggest stone in The Five's sandals though, comes where the novel becomes too engrossed in its musical niche. Descriptions of songs become bogged down in listing of musical notes, internal monologues about songwriting divulge into keys and meters, and specific instruments receive half page descriptions which will leave those who don't actually play anything in the dust. This hazy musical geekery serves to slam the breaks on an otherwise speedy pacing, and is thus jarring the uninitiated. On the opposing side of that coin The Five is likely going to be nerdvana for musicians precisely for the previously listed reasons.  Another minor turn off comes with riding shotgun to struggling musicians. Pretensions a'plenty plague soft spots in the narrative. Nomad functions as the central protagonist, but it's incredibly tough to like him when he flies off the handle and breaks stuff just because. He comes off as petulant, holding on to teenage angst into his twenties.

Despite some flaws, The Five is a sold road trip horror adventure, which really shines brightest during the final act. McCammon is renown for his unpredictability, a quality that shows with each startling reveal. As it's now available in paperback for a mere $8.99, this should make most slasher fan reading lists.

The Five by Robert McCammon is available now from Tor Publishing for the first time as a mass market paperback for $8.99. Order it Here.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.


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