Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Well by Peter Labrow

The WellThe Well by Peter Labrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Publisher: indie/self-published

Where I got it: I won it! Amazon

Warnings: violence, adult themes

The review (spoilers past this point):
The Well could easily be called The Surprise.

I think the first thing I thought when seeing this book was "how on earth do you keep a story going about some people trapped in a well?"

The answer is "with a lot of care".

What makes The Well so compelling is the human element. The narrative follows several lives over the course of a week, beginning with Becca and Matt, who end up trapped in an isolated well after their parents leave town for a few days. Becca, as a point of view character, is quite a likeable protagonist. She's spunky, determined and resourceful. I felt her emotions and actions were quite realistic for such a harrowing ordeal.

Seeing the parents first face the realisation that something is terribly wrong, and then fracturing as the painful reality sits in, is equally heartbreaking for very different reasons. They can escape the well they've put themselves in, if they'd only realise and act on it.

All of the characters - from the antagonistic crossing guard to the police officers on the case and Becca's friends - are well-fleshed out, with care taken to explore their lives and propel them along a path that easily be described as "fate". One character in particular, Sammy, is endearing, brave and completely sure in her convictions. It's a rare gem of a character that reminds the reader that the world doesn't have to be an apathetic place devoid of people making the hard, but heroic choices. Sammy contrasts sharply with her mother, Abby, who, while trying to do the right thing, is in fact making no choice at all and remains as trapped as Becca. For this reason, Sammy becomes an excellent catalyst who forces several characters to move forward, for good or bad. It's a very cool parallel with Becca.

There are numerous moments that have you biting your fingernails and pushing to read "just one more page", but there are also moments that have you pumping your fist in the air. Small triumphs and large ones. It's a wonderful balance to have in a horror novel that is surprisingly free of gore, but high on characterisation and quality story-telling.

Final word
A surprisingly addictive horror novel that is a strong showcase of character limits, failings and successes when faced with an impossible situation

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