Sunday, 3 June 2018

HIDEAWAY by Roger Hayden

First two books: 3 out of 5 stars
Third book: 2 out of 5 stars

On  Amazon UK
On  Amazon US
On Goodreads

How I discovered these books: Amazon browse.

Genre: EMP strike, post apocalyptic, survival

Okay.... this is a weird one.  The first book (Book 0) was free.  It has a fair few bad reviews on .com (as well as some good ones), but I adore this genre so thought I'd give it a try.  It's a short novella about an EMP strike on the US (electromagnetic pulse, taking down the power grid, also cars, phones, etc, are useless) by the North Koreans, with the story set in St Louis, Missouri.  It opens with a Negan style scenario, a few weeks after the disaster when everyone is surviving as best they can, with a stronger group attacking a weaker one and demanding all their stuff.  It was a bit amateur in style, with tense and grammar errors, daft dialogue, etc.  But I decided to read on and see if got any better.  It did!   The next chapter steps back to just before the strike.  Main character, novelist James, has to rescue his news reporter wife Marla from downtown now that the city is in chaos.  They meet up with prepper Larry, who says they can go out to his cabin in order to survive; Larry can see the writing on the wall.  Back at James's house, the National Guard arrive and start hauling everyone off to refugee camps. 

The free book ended with a humdinger of a cliffhanger, and by then I was enjoying it, despite its downsides.  The building panic and James's dilemmas about whether to help people or go find Marla were so well done; the author can certainly build suspense and tell a story, and the whole situation about James's neighbours believing that the National Guard were their saviours, vs Larry's assurance that martial law would be no picnic, was gripping.  The cliffhanger was so well-placed that I downloaded the next part straight away.

Confusion One: Part 2 is called Book 1.  Confusion Two:  It is also called Hideaway, but at least the author has remembered to put his name on the cover of this one.  

I expected to pick up from where the last one ended, but instead the first 20% is a re-hash of first part of the story, this time told from Marla's point of view.  As we'd already been down the shock-horror-what's-going-on road, I couldn't see the point of this, as it didn't add anything to the plot.  I don't mind a little revisiting via a different POV now and again, but there has to be a reason for it.  So I skimmed through that bit and started to enjoy it again once we got back on the road in the Larrymobile.  Up in the cabin now, then down in the nearby town, townie James ignores Larry's survivalist advice and brings a whole bunch of trouble on.  The genre clichés have been criticised in some of the bad reviews, but I was more bothered by James managing to hit and kill moving targets despite having hardly even knowing how a gun worked the week before.   More unnecessary adverbs and evidence of non-existent editing, such as this contradictory and repetitive beauty: 

He could tell in her expression that she noticed the 
unfamiliar plain blue shirt he was wearing, different from 
the University of Tennessee one he was wearing before he left.  
But it was a minor detail, and he didn't think she'd notice.

BUT I was still enjoying the suspense, the story itself and the good characterisation of James and Larry.  The cliffhanger was more of a stop half-way through a scene this time, but I really wanted to know what happened so I downloaded the next one: Part 3, called Book 2, also called Hideaway, again with no author name on the cover.  

Here we meet the 1980s version of Charles Manson, who Marla suddenly remembers being in the papers.  Unfortunately, this one doesn't appear to have any actual credo apart from saying that he wants world domination and to kill all outsiders.  This third part was a bit too daft; the basic idea of a cult leader was good, but it seemed like the writer had had a fair idea but couldn't be bothered to think the details through.  Then the goodies lock up/kill the baddies and it just sort of stops.  And that is a better ending than the book had.  Aside from this, the scenario from the prologue in the free book is never mentioned again or re-visited, although one of the baddies later encountered by James is in it, but I kept waiting for the tie-in that never came ~ it's like the author forgot he'd written it, which is one of the reasons I wonder if the book was even read through before publishing.

To sum up:

The Good:  This guy can write, there is no doubt about that, and I would rather read a book like this than something immaculately edited, proofread and structured by a writer with very little story-telling talent.  During the first two books I wanted to keep turning the pages, which is what so much of this writing thing is all about.

The Bad:  It's a mess, structurally, so much so that it's almost like an exercise in how not to structure a novel.  It needs taking back to the drawing board, and the help of a good content editor, followed by a copy (line) editor and/or a proofreader.  It reads like a first draft: great in places, dreadful in others.  But if it went through a few re-writes, was edited and proofread properly, it could be a terrific book.  Like, just one book.  The 'series' was no longer than an average sized novel; I don't understand the point of dividing it up, it was just irritating.  And a tip for the writer, if he ever reads this: rather than suddenly introducing new characters that existing ones suddenly remember they remember, it works better to at least mention them early on, or show a scene from their POV.  Something.

The Weird:  Love the pictures on the cover, though I don't understand why the middle one has a picture of boats and water, as the story takes place in a city and wooded mountains, and someone ought to tell Mr H about the name thing.  Okay, I guess I just did.

Possibly the most curious set of books I've come across since I've been buying Kindle, which is why I had to keep reading and also felt compelled to review it, but I really do think it has masses of potential to be very good indeed.


  1. What a strange set of books, let's hope this feedback will really help the author get it sorted out.

    1. I hope so, which is why I reviewed it; some of it was so bad I was fascinated about why anyone would publish something without giving it a proper think-through, but it was actually good - if it wasn't, I would have just abandoned, and let that be that.

      On the other hand, maybe if you think it's okay to write random scenes then forget about a whole plot thread, or publish 3 books that all have the same name, without putting your own name on the covers, perhaps you don't care too much about little irrelevancies like getting a book proofread!!

  2. Terry, You are an expert on these apocalyptic scenarios, and I think this is a fair and honest review. Frankly, the thought an EMP strike and the sequelae scares the whey out of me - not sure I could handle reading this book..or the various parts!

    1. I wouldn't normally review a book that wasn't worthy of 3 stars, Noelle; I'd just stop reading it, but the first two books did have so much potential. And it kind of made me want to write an EMP strike book, though I don't know if it would work in England!