I read this without knowing that it was a sequel, but as it turns out that is no big deal: the novel stands alone comfortably, and in fact it’s hard to see how it is a sequel at all really (though from reading reviews, I presume it’s something to do with the paranormal premise).
First of all: this was a great, can’t-put-down-storm-on-through beach read, with a gripping premise and solid writing that kept the reader hooked throughout. The idea of a cruise liner stranded, floating in dead calm on the Gulf of Mexico and out of contact with any rescue service, is one I find fascinating (and have in fact toyed with myself, unsatisfactorily – though not in the Gulf of Mexico). Throw a few key conflicts/intriguing characters into the mix – a sexual predator with blood on his hands, a fake medium who suddenly starts nailing the psychic insights, her anorexic kind-of-nice assistant, suicide sisters who got together through internet death dating, secretly gay Indian security guy, slightly sociopathic cleaning staff member, stalker blog-reporter… Yes, there are a lot of characters. But it’s easy to keep track of who’s who, they have clear and consistent identities, and at no time did I lose track or become disengaged. Quite the opposite – I couldn’t put it down.
The story reminds me a little of early Stephen King, such as the Shining or Christine or Carrie: great premise and strong characters – except King’s would have waffled on for 600 pages. Also I used to find his horror a bit strong to stomach, and Lotz’s – although at the scary end – wasn’t the kind of horror that would make me keep the light on at nights. Which I like. I wouldn’t have picked it up at all, if I’d known it was categorized as horror.
Negatives? The ending, basically. I found the landfall section (minimizing spoilers here) out of the blue and implausible. Plus the format changed from the various main protagonist’s viewpoints to a bulletin/report style. Hm. Losing the personal and replacing with a Kafka-esque unknown government agency report? For me that didn’t work. The faceless bad men of government who disappear people feels tired, and definitely doesn’t offer satisfaction/resolution enough. If you’re the sort of person who felt horribly let down by the way Lost lost the plot and fizzled out with a whimper not a bang – then this isn’t quite a whimper, but it’s not an ending you can get your teeth into and feel satiated by, either.
But I will still rush out and buy number one in series – so obviously the pozzies well outweigh the negs.