Top critical review
Overall entertaining, somewhat lacking
April 24, 2014
Some other reviewers have likened the premise of THE HOUSEMATES to SAW meets BIG BROTHER but I would add-on that there’s a little Agatha Christi’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE mixed in (no spoilers, just a reference).
The book delivers on desperation and gore while a group of strangers face their dwindling chances for survival. The hollow personas of the roommates match those you would expect to appear on reality television, making them seem less the cliché, but are further justified when the true nature of the book seeps into the open. The characters without POVs distinguished themselves convincingly and even proved memorable in certain respects, which is vital when the reader’s keeping track of eleven characters they’ll need to care about.
The protagonist was unbelievably decent, as in I had trouble suspending disbelief that he should be that decent. It felt like one of those cases of “having your cake and eating it too” where he’s supposed to have this everyman/last sane man/upstanding citizen vibe but is also a reformed bad boy can summon his dark, checkered past when it comes to posturing but not in life-or-death scenarios. That contraction made in his behavior – especially given his dire situation – did not humanize the premise but detract from it in ways that felt contrived and insincere.
The ending – without giving spoilers – was implausible and offered no surprises. Fortunately, it’s always rushed so about 95% of the book is suspenseful and even startling at times. I won’t go so far as to say the ending “ruined” the book for me. Truly, I didn’t. Despite being underwhelmed by the mad-dash wrap-up I was having a good time throughout novel and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
I give Wright the credit of being an effective storyteller who gets mileages from a premise some might have tired of and managing a few thrills along the way. His continuity editing; however, was sloppy. I noticed several instances of him miscounting contestants (such as the tally of votes against contestants or seven contestants are remaining but citing six have been eliminated), which felt like a lazy oversight considering how instrumental these figures are to the stories suspense/character fates and makes me wonder if Wright had written a previous draft where these numbers were accurate but didn’t double-check after rewrites.
Again, it was only few instances and – beyond that – the proofreading was fine.
Although I realize it sounds like I’m complaining a lot about this book and trying to talk people out of it I would recommend THE HOUSEMATES to readers who can handle violence and like a story that keeps you turning pages. There are a myriad of things I could praise about the story but doing so would ultimately spoil its gruesome charm and nasty tricks. It’s a decent, fast read despite its kinks and die-hards of such plots or part-time horror fans might genuinely be impressed.