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COLOSSUS (My Name Is Not Heather Stokes Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 356 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
The descriptions were vivid and easy to picture. The characters felt real. They had strengths and flaws and their stories were believable. Some of the ways in which the characters cope with their situation are heart-breaking and touching and just make you that much more invested in the story. This is a story that I couldn't put down once I picked it up and one that stayed with me several days after.
For a book to be compared to Ms. Flynn, I expect a slow unraveling of the tale, not knowing everything up front, and taking twists and turns all the way to the end. There was none of that. Everything was up front and in the open. I didn’t get a slow burn, desiring to turn page after page. I often had to stop and reread large sections of chapters because I thought I was missing something, but it was that characters, ideas, or situations were introduced poorly in the scene - Sterling wasn’t introduced well nor was the reason why cops were questioning Heather’s grandfather, and showing Witt as a bully to the others in the beginning when he’s described as such later. I was frustrated with numerous implausible actions, ideas, set-ups, etc. (a teacher hanging out on the field instead of being in class, 2nd year French students not knowing how to conjugate verbs, coffee drinkers putting lemon & honey in their coffee, keeping victims in closets near enough that they could talk with doors that were easily busted open, not restraining the teens when Rhodes has them out of their closet). I got lost in head hopping within a scene when it’s clearly identified who’s POV the scene is supposed to be in. I also got lost in the poorly laid out timeline in which the author jumps back in time (not a flashback), inserting a scene that should’ve been introduced earlier.
This book has an editor listed and it’s a bit disconcerting that the style is not consistent with any used by writers. Semi-colons are used with the following word capitalized. There are asides in parentheses while someone is talking instead of showing that the speaker changed his attention to someone else in the room. There are odd word choices like “closet-sized room” when “closet” would suffice and be more efficient. One of the characters tells a story and it’s all in italics making it look like it should be a flashback. These are just a few examples of the style that is off-putting for someone who is a voracious reader.
It’s disappointing to discover that such a highly rated book does not deliver on its promise or live up to the reviews already shared.
I will begin with the good aspects of the book.
Harris is a skilled wordsmith. She is adept at using the English language to her advantage. She describes emotions, action, and many scenes with skillful aplomb. She opens the novel with a riveting prologue that is interesting, original, and makes a compelling case for believing the rest of the book to be a shotgun blast of dark thrills. For many unfortunate reasons, that promise is never fulfilled and that is where the praise for this novel ends.
The book is positioned as a suspense/horror thriller, but based on my interpretation of the content of COLOSSUS, that is incorrect. There were flashes of suspense, but never was it sustained. Most of those instances occurred within the first few chapters before the teenagers find themselves in Mr. Rhodes’ house of horrors. After that, the story is almost completely devoid of any level of tension. In my experience, the key to a compelling thriller is building tension and injecting unexpected events from time to time to keep the readers guessing. There is precious little of that here. Instead, COLOSSUS features a grueling, monotonous plot that suffers from pointless repetition and offers little in the way of reasons for the readers’ pulse to rise or even to continue reading.
The first few times Rhodes forces himself sexually on the teenagers is shocking (as any tale depicting rape should be). However, the author hamstrings the earth-shattering effects of such an event by boring the reader with blunt repetition. The author writes chapter after chapter of similar rape scenes until the reader becomes numb to the innate terribleness of the act. In doing so, the author also wastes precious pages which could have been used for character development, adding subplots, or building of suspense… on yet more rape scenes. As a result, the pacing is very slow and plodding because the story really doesn’t move until the final few chapters. There are, without exaggeration, dozens of scenes depicting rape or implying “off-screen” rape in the book. Occasionally the author throws in a flashback scene between rape sessions, but they are few and far between.
Once anything resembling a forward-moving story happens, it is very late in the game and in my opinion, too late to save the novel from itself. By the thirtieth rape scene I’d already had enough of the book and the “twist” (if it can be classified as such) is preposterous and a pill I just couldn’t swallow.
Police or FBI presence is non-existent despite this not being Rhodes’ first time torturing and raping kids for a month straight. With this being set in the very recent past (10-13 years), and technology being the state that it is in even in 2003, the idea that the authorities have no leads or clues with regards to the modus operandi of Avery Rhodes is implausible at best. Towards the end of the book, he even brags about them giving him a name (Phoenix) and having knowledge of his escapades. However, they only appear in the beginning of the book and the very end, and do nothing of consequence besides pester an old man. Does every suspense/horror novel have to have a law enforcement element? No. But such a subplot is more likely to build tension and be preferable to another rape scene.
On to the topic of the antagonist, Avery Rhodes (Colossus, Thatch, Phoenix… I might be missing one.) He begins the story sufficiently sinister and menacing enough, but then devolves into a cartoon caricature of a bad guy. He keeps a hunting knife in a bedside table drawer, unlocked, when he goes to rape a victim in the very same room. For some reason he takes his victims from their holding areas into another room to assault them, then returns them to their rooms, despite that creating a huge weak point in his plan. The kids are unrestrained before, during, and after with no handcuffs, no leather restraints, not even plastic zip ties. During the prologue, Rhodes finds a filthy and dilapidated house and secures it for himself. Only to apparently have the time and funds to renovate it, restore it, fill the kitchen with modern appliances, have the electricity restored (despite not being the actual owner of the house), and reinforce or replace all of the doors. He also chooses to make his torture and rape room stark white. Calls it The White Room. Now, I’ve never been a serial killer nor rapist, but if I were to establish a room where I was going to beat, torture, and sexually violate people for a month, the absolute last color I’d want the walls, bedding, and carpeting is white.
As for the ending: despite the seemingly endless scenes of rape and abuse, the ending was much too terse and unsatisfyingly anti-climactic. There is no redemption nor cathartic revenge, no twists in the plot, no big reveals, no final fight. It just ends. Speaking of which, those looking for a reason or meaning behind the series title: My Name Is Not Heather Stokes will not find any resolution to that question by the end of this book. The protagonist is called Heather Stokes at the beginning of the book, is called that throughout the book, and is called Heather Stokes until the very last line. Maybe in the next book?
Lastly, I would like to address the editing. COLOSSUS is rough: Liberal use of parentheses in passages where they are not normally used. (Also occasionally italicized.) Questionable use of semi-colons and other punctuation. Even a section that dips into regional dialect and becomes nigh unreadable when a trifecta of intentionally misspelled words conspires with hundreds of apostrophes during a five-page stretch of italics.
All of those things being said, I write this review not to dissuade the author from writing more, quite the opposite. It is clear Harris knows how to write, and has the key building blocks at her disposal to make a phenomenal story or series. However, this is not that story. I encourage the author to: Please, write more! But I also urge her to hone her craft, refine her skills, and prove that she’s better than this work. I rate this book 2 out of 5 stars with the second star being given solely for the potential of the writer only hinted at in the pages of COLOSSUS.
Thank you Douglas for your Review.