Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye a thriller:
final girls (Riley Sager)
Except this review has a twist. Ye see, blustery winds and crazy seas are still severely limiting the time I have to read. The First Mate has been reading like a fiend. So I
ordered asked him to write a review of something he recently read because I be going through withdraw and NEED to hear about books. At the end of his review I will decide whether the book is kept in the hold for me future reading pleasure or be keelhauled into the watery depths. Hope ye enjoy!
From the First Mate:
Final Girls didn’t work for me. I think I was the target audience; fans of 70s/80s slashers who ask “what happens to these people after the credits roll.” The publisher’s description seems fun and exciting. And yet the novel itself is all kinds of dumb, lazy, and boring.
Sager employs a dual narrative structure with each narrative focusing on the main character, Quincy Carpenter. The primary narrative is told in Quincy’s first person in the present, dealing with the novel’s plot of whether or not there’s a killer on the loose who’s hunting the Final Girls. The secondary narrative is told in third person limited to Quincy perspective and tells the story of what happened at the Pine Cottage massacre. Sager is able to keep separation between the two narratives by introducing one of my least favorite thriller tropes: psychogenic amnesia.
The fact of the matter is that I’ve never read a thriller that was improved by giving the main character amnesia. The only utility is that amnesia allows the author to keep key information away from the reader to protect whatever twist that is planned into the plot. It’s almost always cheap and lazy, and the author would typically have been better served coming at their twist from a different angle.
Are there twists to be had in the Final Girls? Oh, yes. Boring, stupid, obvious twists that you’re going to see coming from chapters away. And those chapters where you can see the twist but you have to wait until Sager feels it’s finally time to reveal it? So very dull.
Then there’s the matter of all of the characters just feeling weirdly off. Perhaps Sager was trying to make some commentary on the types of bizarre characters that populated 70s/80s slashers, though if that was the intention not much was done with it. I just know that I didn’t enjoy any of the characters and I didn’t believe their actions either.
I still think that the overall premise of Final Girls has a lot of merit. Slasher films were a significant part of the popular culture for around thirty years. References to hockey-masked machete-wielding maniacs appear in the unlikeliest of places. Deconstructions and examinations of the genre have happened in film (my favorite being the little seen Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon) and certainly in academic literature, but I don’t really know of any popular fiction that used slashers as a point of departure. Perhaps my disappointment in this novel is primarily due to what I had hoped it could be.
Can’t recommend it to anyone.
Yer Captain’s Verdict:
KEELHAUL! Cause that sounds awful even if it be hyped in the blogosphere. Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
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