Title: The Mansion
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Date of Publication: 4th December, 2018
Word/Page Count: 432 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
After two years of living on cheap beer and little else in a bitterly cold tiny cabin outside an abandoned, crumbling mansion, young programmers Shawn Eagle and Billy Stafford have created something that could make them rich: a revolutionary computer they name Eagle Logic.
But the hard work and escalating tension have not been kind to their once solid friendship—Shawn’s girlfriend Emily has left him for Billy, and a third partner has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. While Billy walks away with Emily, Shawn takes Eagle Logic, which he uses to build a multi-billion-dollar company that eventually outshines Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined.
Years later, Billy is a failure, beset by poverty and addiction, and Shawn is the most famous man in the world. Unable to let the past be forgotten, Shawn decides to resurrect his and Billy’s biggest failure: a next-generation computer program named Nellie that can control a house’s every function. He decides to set it up in the abandoned mansion they worked near all those years ago. But something about Nellie isn’t right—and the reconstruction of the mansion is plagued by accidental deaths. Shawn is forced to bring Billy back, despite their longstanding mutual hatred, to discover and destroy the evil that lurks in the source code.
I absolutely adored Ezekiel Boone’s ‘The Hatching‘ trilogy, which is incredible given how I’m terrified of spiders, but that series was perfectly written with well-developed characters, fast-paced action, stunning twists and TONS of death and mayhem. I knew going into The Mansion that this wasn’t going to be on a similarly apocalyptic scale of disaster, but I hoped the same magic would be at work here and that just wasn’t the case.
All credit to the author – his careful work at establishing and building up the characters is obvious, this story is very much character-driven as opposed to being filled with action. The unfortunate part for me was that I really disliked both male leads for a fair amount of time – Shawn is an arrogant entitled jerk who does some truly appalling things to further his agenda, and Billy is so focused on that chip on his shoulder that he ruins his life and Emily’s with his selfishness, terrible decision-making and addiction. I feel like we’re meant to sympathize with Billy for being hard done by, but he does NOTHING to help himself and actively makes everything worse, it was actually tough reading from his perspective because he was so delusional about being a victim when he had a lot of sins to answer for. I wanted to root for Emily, but she was too busy being the bone these men fought over to have much for me to latch onto.
There’s nothing wrong with having unsympathetic protagonists, but I would’ve liked a decent amount of action to counterbalance that – seeing them struggle in the face of horror would’ve gone a long way to making the first half of the book less of a tedious slog. Instead, we’re treated to countless flashbacks to the guys cohabiting in the shack when they first tried to bring their futuristic computer program to life and a tiresome love triangle once Emily arrives on the scene that does nobody any favors. I thought the first couple lines of the blurb merely set the scene, but in actuality, the book delves into that scenario in great and unnecessary detail.
I requested this ARC because of the amazing premise of a killer artificial intelligence that controls their living quarters – how creepy is that! You hear all these stories of #Alexafails where Alexa devices record private conversations and send them to the home-owner’s contacts or orders random items on their credit card that were never requested, and as our society becomes more and more reliant on technology with it being incorporated into every facet of our daily lives, I could definitely see this ‘smart home’ idea taking off. The potential for it to go horribly wrong is an enticing concept and I was so excited to see how it would be tackled here – but I didn’t expect that Nellie would barely exist except as a futile goal in flashbacks for basically half the novel!
Nellie deserved to dominate the story in all her insidious malevolent glory, but instead the main focus was on the messy human entanglements. She was allowed to let loose towards the end of the story, but that was too little, too late. The blurb mentions that Billy is brought back into the fold because her glitches are out of control and result in multiple deaths, but we don’t see THOSE, so all we have to go on is Nellie whispering ominous threats and then pretending she said something else. Which honestly was pretty amusing in a passive-aggressive way, but I was expecting something more overtly malicious and deadly to come into play, and that wasn’t the case til very nearly the end.
I found the plot interesting enough that I finished reading this because I had to know how it was resolved, but I do feel like the blurb is misleading and should be rewritten to reflect the actual story – it’s not so much a horror as a family drama, and it excels in that aspect with the dense backstory and complicated characterization, but people who pick this up expecting to be entertained by a chilling horror story as advertised might not find it satisfying in that regard.
Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed a digital copy free from Atria/Emily Bestler Books via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
2 thoughts on “ARC Review – ‘The Mansion’ by Ezekiel Boone”
Yours is the first review I’ve read, and even I’m disappointed reading this! I decided not to request this, although I was tempted, but I was having trouble wrapping my head around the haunted house looking cover and the “technology run amok” aspect. Guess I was right!
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The author has a lot of goodwill earned with me because of his previous series, so I’d still try another one of his books, but man, this had SO much potential and just frittered it away. I mean, if it was advertised as an adult fiction book with romantic and thriller elements, that’d be fine, I’d have no issues, but slapping the horror label on it and not introducing the AI til 25% into the book (and that was only a brief intro! they didn’t occupy the mansion til I think 46-48% in?) with all the real horror happening in the last few chapters was such a bait-and-switch. I don’t think anybody comes into a horror read looking for interminable flashbacks and relationship drama!
I still gave it 3 stars because I did get invested in the story despite all that, but man, I wish half of the book had been cut out and we started at the point where they entered the mansion. It’s like if Resident Evil started with half the movie showing the scientists working on developing the T-virus and hooking up in their spare time, people would be like ‘Hang on, we’re here for Milla Jovovich being badass and fighting zombies, where’s that at?’