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Level 26: Dark Origins Hardcover – September 8, 2009
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Unlock a new level of fear
It is well known among law enforcement personnel that murderers can be categorized on a scale of twenty- five levels of evil, from the naive opportunists starting out at Level 1 to the organized, premeditated torture- murderers who inhabit Level 25.
What almost no one knows—except for the elite unnamed investigations group assigned to hunt down the world’s most dangerous killers, a group of men and women accounted for in no official ledger, headed by the brilliant but reluctant operative Steve Dark—is that a new category of killer is in the process of being defined.
Only one man belongs to this group.
His targets: Anyone
His alias: Sqweegel
His classification: Level 26
Welcome to the Dark side.
The first television script I ever wrote was CSI. Almost overnight, the CSI franchise surpassed my wildest dreams and became a cultural phenomenon. And now, I am extremely pleased to announce my next project, Level 26: Dark Origins. Level 26 takes the best features of books, film, and interactive digital technologies and rolls them all into a unique storytelling experience we’re calling the world’s first “Digi-Novel™.”
Level 26: Dark Origins features Steve Dark, the ultimate crime scene tactician on the tail of a killer so brutal law enforcement has invented a new classification of evil to account for him. Dark Origins can be read on the beach or on an airplane without any digital access . . . but where the traditional story ends, a deeper level of immersion is available at www.level26.com, exclusively to readers of the book. About every twenty pages, you will have the option of logging in to experience a digital cyber-bridge—a three-minute motion picture scene with A-list actors you might’ve seen in blockbuster films and award winning TV shows. Before your eyes, the characters will spring to life, crime scene details will explode off the screen, and the Web site might even ask for a phone number—where the killer can reach you directly. You might call it CSI with an edge.
Level 26 is not just something you read. It’s an experience. Read, watch, log in. Enjoy!
Anthony E. Zuiker
From Publishers Weekly
CSI creator Zuiker teams with Swierczynski (Severance Package) to create what's billed as the world's first digi-novel, involving a seriously weird serial killer and the tortured FBI investigator who's forced to hunt him down. There's nothing really new about the basic concept, but Swierczynski handles the writing with assurance and verve. The killer, known as Sqweegel, is a psychopath who has shot, raped, maimed, poisoned, burned, strangled, and tortured upwards of fifty people in six countries over a span of more than twenty years. The investigator, Steve Dark, lives a quiet life with his beloved, pregnant wife, in Malibu, Calif. The digital concept kicks in every 20 pages or so when the reader is referred to a Web site containing 20 two- to three-minute professionally made film clips that bridge the action from one section to another. It's a bit like watching the extras on a DVD—fun, but not really necessary to the main event. 200,000 first printing.(Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This book is very graphic in the crimes that are committed. It can be hard to read if you can't tolerate that type of writing. There's also a little sexual content as well. The crimes are very heinous and vivid. The criminal is the worst type and it states that many times over.
I couldn't put the book down and just had to read it all the way until the end. I was fascinated and couldn't wait to see what would happen. Very good crime and suspense book!!
Don't you just hate something that sounds so good in theory end ups lost in the process?
Those are the questions that way in my mind over this book. The concept of a digi book sounded good. And it would have been had there been a solid novel to go with it. Unfortunately, Level 26: Dark Origins lacked in so many ways, it can only be rated as an average chase the bad guy thriller.
The villain is billed as a Level 26 killer, the new, highest level of evil. Right now, Michael Stone's scale of evil recognizes only 22 levels of evil, with the torture-murderer ranking the highest. Sqweegel, the villain, unfortunately, does not fill the bill as promised. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy - all of them are level 22, with their evil all the more frightening because it hidden behind a human, charming facade. This is also true of the best literary villains, from Dracula to Hannibal Lecter to Richard III. Sqweegel lacks that. He is the garden variety, creep-of-the-week bad guy in a S&M suit who appears weekly on crime dramas. His primary motive for killing has been used before in a number of books with far more success. His 'surprise' motive revealed after the climax, is telegraphed chapters earlier. Not foreshadowed with a fine brush but painted with a roller. Very little background is given, as if to make us feel more frightened - an unexplained monster should be scarier, correct? In this case, no. His body suit is not frightening, either. The meticulous prep work the villain does prior to dressing in the suit would have sufficed as the character would have appeared normal to the outside world.
Stephen Dark, the hero of the piece, is your average serial killer-hunter. In fact, he is so common, the scene where his boss, Riggins, finds him echoes the same sort of scene that appears in Red Dragon and the Michael Mann adaptation Manhunter. These two scenes were so similar, I expected to see William Petersen as Dark. Ironically, Petersen once starred in Zuicker's creation, CSI, as well as Manhunter. Is this a homage, or unconscious repetition?
The online content is interested in a sense, but the content would have been better suited in the novel itself. Several sections of the book should have been filmed and included, but were not. For instance, Dark's meeting of his wife would have been a better choice than the film chosen for chapter one. The films themselves were disappointing, with only Michael Ironside's performance drawing me back. Of course, he is also the reason I have watched hours of profoundly bad sci-fi movies and listened to even more hours of Metal Gear Solid video games. His performance alone does not uplift what is essentially a stripped down script, on a throwaway set with forgettable stars.
All together, this is an interesting idea on many levels that is chewed up by an average writer who clearly cut his teeth on television. The characters, villain, hero, side kick and love interest climb out of television movies of the week. The villains acts echo other famous killers, with the final kill a nearly duplicates Jack the Ripper's murder of Mary Kelly. This is a derivative product that is a good time burner. A excellent book to buy used and read on a plane, bus or cab ride.
I bought this out of sheer curiosity, thinking I wouldn't like it, but I have to admit it kinda grew on me. The little video snippets were interesting - I didn't view them all, but the ones I did view helped me get an idea of what the writer was thinking, so made it interesting.
The Methodist church issue has been raised in these reviews, but I have a couple of comments. Protestant churches don't have priests, kneelers, or crucifix (in protestantism, Jesus is not constantly being crucified; he's risen). That was really a bad faux pas. There may have been other research mistakes, but that one stuck out pretty badly.
I, too, would like to know more about the killer - his background, childhood, etc. All we really know is he's killed for 30-some years, he wasn't breast fed, and he has a ton of money. I'm guessing his Granny was one of his first victims.
Killing off Sibby was bad, especially after all she went through to survive her first set of injuries. And the horses! We already know he's a creep; don't kill the animals! I have not read tne 2nd book yet, but assuming a beloved family pet will go next.
I liked the little digs the author made at his own TV show - noting that things don't work as quickly as on CSI. However, I did notice that at the end the DNA results returned in remarkable time!
***WARNING*** SPOILER ALERT! STOP HERE IF YOU HAVE NOT READ!
All in all, I found the book to be entertaining - this genre isn't supposed to be classic literature - and the little videos gave it a nice flavor, an added dimension. Also I liked the open ended cliff-hanger at the end - caused lots of discussion on the level26 website! The author went to a lot of trouble to note on numerous occasions that Squeegel had been killing for 30 years (that we know of), and with the cliff-hanger DNA results at the end, I am guessing he might be Dark's dad. And the little video at the end? I think that's Dark in the black 'kill' suit.