Any time I read a book about a box, or where there is a mystery box involved, I hope that the author is not tyring to recreate or ripoff Clive Barker's Hellraiser mythology. Thankfully, that is not the case here. Also, whenever I read a book about a box, I hope that Gwenyth Paltrow's head is not inside. On second though, I hope it is inside, because that means she will never make another movie again. (If you do not understand this reference, go see the move Seven. Now.) Alas, her head was not inside the box.
But I digress...
I will start off by saying, so there is no confusion, that I enjoyed this book and fully intend on reading the rest of the series. It is an easy 4 out of 5 stars, and would be 4.5 if that was an option
I read Brian Harmon's The Box over the course of a day or two. It started out a little slow, but, in my mind, the best horror stories always start out slow. If you jump into a story without proper world building, something important is always left out. Fortunately, it doesn't stay slow for long, as the mystery of the Box is quickly introduced. Now, I am a child of the eighties and nineties, and the first thing I was reminded of as the two main characters, Albert and Brandy, begin to explore the mystery of the box was the movie The Goonies (if you haven't seen The Goonies, go see it. Now). Though Albert and Brandy are older than the characters in the movie, and though there are only two characters at this point instead of six, this is what I felt. At its most basic, The Box is a story of two people blindly exploring a mysterious, creepy world introduced to them by the Box simply because it is human nature to want to understand and unravel the mysteries set before them. Before they know it they find themselves set upon by both their own emotions and doubts as well as the denizens of the world they have discovered. Their challenges are both psychological and physical and drive them to the brink of sanity.
In the end... well, that is one of my two problems with the book. First, since this is only part one of a six book series, and since it is only a 50,000 word long novella and not a full book, this particular volume was created as a starting point. As a teaser. There is adventure, and it is a good ride, but nothing is accomplished. Sure, there is character evolution, a very important ingredient, but there is no real end. It's like reading the Wizard of Oz and the movie stopping when they reach the Emerald City; the ride has been fun, but the end is not there. Don't get me wrong... there is an end to the story, and a logical end to it, but it felt like the end of part one of a longer book. But that's the point, I guess, to novelized novellas/books... to give the reader reason to buy the next. Again, don't get me wrong, the reader gets their money's worth from the book. I didn't feel cheated. Just don't expect an end that wraps everything up nicely. Many more questions are created than answered when the book finally ends.
And my second issues, and this is minor, is that I wish that the author had given more of the mythology surrounding the world he created. Everything is faceless and nameless, both literally and figuratively, and while the writing is excellent and the story is intense, evoking all sorts of emotions (like horror is supposed to), I wish more of the history and mythology had somehow been explored more so this vivid, disturbing world could be defined a little more.
So, in conclusion (yeah, I know, sounds like a term paper), The Box was a great read. Tense, fun, creepy, with likable main characters and enough mysteries to keep you turning the pages. I look forward to the rest of the series.