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Monday, April 25, 2011

“RUN” by Blake Crouch (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read An Excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Blake Crouch was born in Statesville, North Carolina and he graduated in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina. He has written four previous novels and a host of short stories. Two of his stories have been optioned for film adaptation. Blake currently lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife.

PLOT SUMMARY: Picture this: A landscape of American genocide...

5 d a y s a g o
A rash of bizarre murders swept the country...
Senseless. Brutal. Seemingly unconnected.
A cop walked into a nursing home and unloaded his weapons on elderly and staff alike.
A mass of school shootings.
Prison riots of unprecedented brutality.
Mind-boggling acts of violence in every state.

4 d a y s a g o
The murders increased ten-fold...

3 d a y s a g o
The President addressed the nation and begged for calm and peace...

2 d a y s a g o
The killers began to mobilize...

Y e s t e r d a y
All the power went out...

T o n i g h t
They're reading the names of those to be killed on the Emergency Broadcast System. You are listening over the battery-powered radio on your kitchen table, and they've just read yours.

Your name is Jack Colclough. You have a wife, a daughter, and a young son. You live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. People are coming to your house to kill you and your family. You don't know why, but you don't have time to think about that any more.

You only have time to...


FORMAT/INFO: RUN is 281 pages long divided over thirty-eight unnamed/unnumbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person via Jack and Dee Colclough. RUN is self-contained and ends on a clear note. The book also features an interview with the author and includes excerpts from Locked Doors, Desert Places, Abandon & Snowbound. March 23, 2011 marked the Trade Paperback publication of RUN. The e-book edition was published on February 19, 2011. Cover art and design provided by Jeroen ten Berge.

ANALYSIS: Not only was I fascinated by RUN’s blurb, but previously I had read Serial Uncut which was a collaborative effort between Blake Crouch and Joe Konrath. I very much liked the book’s mix of horror and thriller genres and therefore contacted the author for a review copy. Mr. Crouch gladly obliged and I immediately dove in wondering how the book would measure up against such a tantalizing blurb.

RUN begins with an unnamed female arriving at an unknown site and we are left wondering what is going on? The book then shifts to Deanna “Dee” Colclough who has a scary encounter with her paramour Kiernan as he asks her to get away from him before anything happens to her. We are then introduced to Jack Colclough and his family which consists of his wife Dee, his teenaged daughter Naomi and his son Cole. Jack is a professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and Dee is a physician. They are packing their things and trying to get their bearings as they plan to flee the city when Jack’s name gets called out on the radio. Jack and his family then rush out of their house and are attacked rather brutally by people who are tracking the folks whose names have been announced.

Thus begins their odyssey as they seek travel to the North not knowing who or what awaits them. The events which have caused this meltdown are alluded to and are a bit explained, but ultimately it’s up to the reader to decide what triggered this situation. There is much more happening, but to describe them would ruin the surprise. The action is shown throughout the lower continental US, Northern Mexico and southern parts of Canada with Jack and Dee’s journey taking them through the western half of the US as they try to avoid the ‘crazies’ and survive along with their children.

Because the book focuses deeply on the Colclough family, specifically the story of a father striving to do right by his progeny, RUN is immediately comparable to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. However, there’s a crucial difference: the world featured in The Road is a post-apocalyptic one, whereas in RUN, the world teeters on the verge of collapse. RUN is also less dark than the Pulitzer Prize winner, although it has its moments of horror.

Blake Crouch’s prose admirably fuels this high-strung tale as he showcases a slightly dysfunctional family: Jack, the father struggling to save his family; Dee, the estranged wife who has to choose between her feelings for her paramour and her family; and Naomi and Cole, the children who are shockingly thrust into a world where they have no control and no way to adapt... Mr. Crouch efficiently showcases the struggle faced by both parents as they try to explain the situation to themselves and their kids, with emotional family moments brilliantly juxtaposed by harrowing action scenes that will have readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

Besides the Colclough family, we also get bits and pieces of information about the environment from other characters we meet during the course of the story, although they are fleeting. The affected people meanwhile, seem sane enough in understanding what they are doing and the author provides clues about their motivations, but nothing is clearly spelt out.

There are very few drawbacks with the book. A few readers might get frustrated at the absence of a concrete explanation for what is happening, but like in real life, many things occur which have only theories instead of rational explanations. Lastly, the climax is a bit fantastical and detaches a tiny bit of credibility from the tale. Fortunately, the ending is not too over-the-top to ruin the overall effect.

CONCLUSION: Blake Crouch’s RUN is a simple, but magical tale about survival, the bonds of family, and the endurance of the human spirit. RUN exceeded my expectations and is a book I will enjoy re-reading in the future. In short, the author is rapidly moving up my reading list and seems hell-bent on proving David Morrell’s words true: “Blake Crouch is the most exciting new thriller writer I've read in years.”


Anonymous said...

I thought this site was fantasy book critic.

Liviu said...

It would be really boring if we would cover only sff, no?

Joking aside, while sff gets priority here of course, a lot of other stuff gets covered, the main criterion being interesting-ness to one of us.

Rather than mediocre sff, better the best from other genres, whether historical fiction, literary fiction or mysteries as here.

M.R.Mathias said...

I have to agree with Liviu. So many stories are on the borderline these days it's almost impossible to differentiate what genre(s) they really fall under.

SammySamIsMe said...

What happens at the end of the book?

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