"Exponential" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Samhain Publishing
Written by Adam Cesare
2014, 195 pages, Fiction
Released on December 2nd, 2014
When you follow an author's career, there's an unexpected sense of pride and strange pleasure that comes from seeing them grow and become great at what they do. In the case of Adam Cesare, the experience is even better because he was great right out of the gates and has only gotten better with each new book. Exponential, his latest release, is like a collection of the elements that make Cesare's fiction so enjoyable wrapped up in a fast-paced giant monster narrative that's also a bit of the author's love letter to the subgenre.
Sam Taylor is a lonely man constantly looking for a friend. He works as a janitor in a top-secret facility, so when he finally finds a friend, a mouse named Felix that should never leave the facility, the little rodent becomes very important to Sam. Unfortunately, soon after Sam takes his new companion home, the mouse begins to change. The horrendous transformation is quick, and the janitor quickly becomes affected by it in ways he could never have imagined. The result of what goes on with Sam and Felix is something that grows very fast and possesses an insatiable hunger. The ever-expanding, shifting mass that started as a tiny mouse eventually causes a lot of trouble for four survivors who are stuck in a roadside bar: a tribal police officer who suffers from insomnia, a woman who's lost everything, her drug dealer, and a professional gambler who isn't welcome in most casinos and hunts most of what she eats. The ragtag team, armed with a few guns, a ton of fear, and a bag of ill-acquired meth, are the only thing standing between the hungry monster and the city of Las Vegas, but their survival seems as impossible as the thing hunting them down.
Exponential is a very fun read. For starters, Cesare seems to have reached a point in his career where the elements of all his previous work easily come together in new and entertaining ways. The love of film is present and a handful of movies are referenced, there's a healthy dose of action and gore, and the narrative is a love letter to the monster genre, all of which are cohesive elements of Cesare's oeuvre. However, there are also folks on the run, guns, and drugs, which were rare in the author's work before. Also, while many writers struggle to create a main character with whom the reader can empathize, this novel contains more than one, and despite the fact that not all them shine equally, they're all damaged enough to make the reader care about them, which serves to increase the importance of the threat outside and helps us feel their fear.
Horror can be subtle or it can be in-your-face, and Exponential occupies a space between the two. The monster has its share of brutal moments, but there are also a few wonderfully creepy passages (although in Cesare's work they should be referred to as scenes) in which the fiend is out of view, and those are outstanding. For example, at one point the approaching beast knocks down electric poles as it makes its way to the bar. Although it can't be "seen," those disappearing poles in the distance announce something bad approaching, and that impending doom is wrapped in a layer of mystery that makes it personify fear of the unknown.
Anyone looking for a horror story that does most things very well should check out Exponential. A few books ago, many reviewers, including me, declared Cesare an outstanding new voice in the genre and the future of horror. Well, the future is now, and this novel proves that Cesare is a consummate master of the creepy, the bloody, and the scary.