Brian Keene has always been one of my favorite authors from my first reading of The Rising. I have read almost all of Keene’s works and he still remains one of the top authors in the genre. Some my favorites by Keene are The Rising, Ghoul, Earthworm Gods, Dark Hollow and Kill Whitey. So, how does The Complex stack up?
The first thing I noticed is that The Complex by Brian Keene is a throwback to the time in his career that I’d call his “prime” at this point which I think is 2003-2010 where he uncorked some his best works including The Rising, Ghoul, Earthworm Gods, Kill Whitey, Dark Hallow….ect. It seems that sometime around 2010 Keene’s work, in my eyes, took a bit of a step back. Not that they weren’t good, they were, but they were not the stuff of greatness that his earlier novels were. If you are a Keene fan and listen to his awesome podcast, you will probably know this timeframe fell in some tough personal times which may have affected the work. The Complex is an emphatic strike of the gavel, stating Keene is back.
Now, to The Complex! Whether one loves or hates zombies or even consider this a zombie book, everyone should agree that is survival horror and in this Keene is King. It is fast, brutal, and colorful all at the same time and a new take on the zombie-like genre. A housing complex is suddenly at siege by crazed lunatic killers, worse, the survivors know them because they live right next door! Perhaps more terrifying is that the crazies will pick up anything and kill you with it in colorful action. The cast of characters is a mishmash of social classes , races and gender identities, not to mention personalities and personality disorders. Also, an interesting fact is that The Complex takes place in a fictionalized version of the apartment complex Keene lived in at the time, even features the “Meth heads” he talks about on the podcast.
While the book is vintage Keene, it is not without its faults. First, there is little plot and subplot. The story moves too fast for there really to be much plot and the timeframe of the book seems to be a matter of 24 hours or so. Perhaps the shallow plot is necessary in order to portray the frantic attempt to survive. The second problem I had with it is a lot of the characters were also shallow, almost cookie cutter types. There was the “thug”, the “mom”….ect but it wasn’t all bad, they each has small quirks that worked well enough to keep you interested in them.
Overall, I believe that while The Complex may not be quite up to the level of some of my favorite Keene novels it is much more on that level than his more recent novels. If you are a fan of survival horror, you should certainly read The Complex.
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